This is the best baked ziti I have ever tried...and I have tried a lot. This is from the March 2009 issue of Cook's Illustrated and has been thoroughly tested by them.
- 1 lb 1% fat cottage cheese
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 lb ziti pasta
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 5 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- black pepper
- 3⁄4 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F Whisk cottage cheese, eggs and 1 cup Parmesan together in medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 Tablespoon salt and pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain pasta and leave in colander.
- Meanwhile, heat oil and garlic in 12 inch skillet over medium heat until garlic is fragrant but not brown. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and sugar, then season with salt and pepper.
- Stir cornstarch into heavy cream in small bowl, transfer mixture to Dutch oven set over medium heat. Bring to simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce and 3/4 cup mozzarella, then stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat.
- Transfer pasta mixture to 13 x 9 inch baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan over top. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove foil and continue to cook until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 3 Tablespoons basil and serve.