Recipe by Alan in SW Florida

I know!!! I know!!!...there are hundreds of recipes for Baked Ziti. So, why try mine?? Making baked ziti should be simple...pasta, tomato sauce, covered in cheese. Well, my recipe involves a little more work...but, I promise you that it will be a lot more than overcooked pasta in a jarred tomato sauce topped with rubbery cheese!!! This recipe is huge on flavor and is still easy to make. You will turn a tired old casserole into a dish worthy of dinner parties...rich and flavorful!!! One additional note: I use cottage cheese, instead of ricotta. I find that the cottage cheese is creamier and tangier than ricotta, and not quite as grainy. I also cook the pasta less than al dente, because it will continue to cook as it absorbs the sauce while it bakes...that way the ziti isn't overcooked. ENJOY!!!!!!!

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 1 lb whole-milk cottage cheese (you could use 1 percent, but do NOT use nonfat cottage cheese...it will break when baked)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 ounces parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 lb ziti pasta (or other short, tubular pasta)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce (I like Cento or Pastene)
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 12 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 34 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup heavy cream (whole milk could be substituted by increasing the cornstarch to 2 teaspoons and increasing the cooki)
  • 8 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups. You could use whole-milk or part-skim mozzarella, but do NOT use the preshredded c)

Directions

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk the cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese together in a medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 to 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta; cook, stirring often, until the pasta is just shy of al dente, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the pasta and leave in the colander (do not wash the pot).
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and garlic in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant but not brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano, and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Take skillet off the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the freshly chopped basil and the sugar; then season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Stir the cornstarch into the heavy cream in a small bowl; transfer the mixture to the now-empty pot (which you didn't clean) and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add the cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup of the prepared tomato sauce, and 3/4 cup of the diced mozzarella; then stir to combine. Add the pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.
  5. Transfer the pasta mixture to a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and spread the remaining sauce evenly over the pasta mixture. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella and the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan over the top. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove the foil and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let set for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped basil and serve.
  7. Mangia!

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