Baked Ziti from Cook's Illustrated

"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."
 
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photo by mary winecoff photo by mary winecoff
photo by mary winecoff
photo by Sageca photo by Sageca
photo by Isabellas Can Opener photo by Isabellas Can Opener
photo by FDADELKARIM photo by FDADELKARIM
Ready In:
1hr 20mins
Ingredients:
16
Serves:
8-10
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ingredients

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directions

  • 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.

Questions & Replies

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  1. lori_barker
    Can this be made ahead, through assembly, and then baked a day or two later?
     
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Reviews

  1. Jennacooks
    I read this in the original Cook's Illustrated issue but we lost it, so I'm so glad to see the recipe posted here. A few things I'd add: 1) to the people saying that you should substitute ricotta instead of cottage cheese: ricotta is the traditional cheese used for baked ziti, but if you read Cook's Illustrated they made it both ways and found that cottage cheese retained its moisture while ricotta dried out. They substituted cottage cheese instead of ricotta and got better results, so stay with cottage cheese. 2) to save some steps / time: you can use jarred alfredo sauce instead of mixing cream/cornstarch and get the exact same results. In fact, they did it that way in Cook's Illustrated and got the same results as mixing your own cream sauce. They just put mixing your own cream sauce in the final recipe because they wanted it to be all from scratch. So, save yourself some time and effort and use jarred alfredo sauce! 3) this is also great with vodka sauce instead of straight tomato sauce, and I do like to add more cubes of mozzarella. Great, great recipe that really feeds a crowd -- thanks for posting!
     
  2. LorenLou
    OMG.....I had a really good ziti recipe but this one puts it to shame. My friend actually had the Cook's Illustrated and let me read it. It explains why cottage cheese over ricotta, why the mozzarella cheese is cubed, etc., and it all totally makes sense. I have been begging for her to send me the recipe all week and was so happy to find it here. I really don't like to make substitutions when I'm reviewing a recipe. I feel it should be prepared as written for a proper review. That said, we're not into "chunky", so I subbed another can of tomato sauce for the diced tomatoes. That's the only change I made. This is the creamiest, most flavorful ziti ever. Hands down, my family agreed, we throw out the old recipe!
     
  3. sansy
    This was very good. Did not miss the meat, just added a salad and felt good about it. As someone suggested I used a jar of prepared alfredo sauce for ease (no cream or time). I also doubled the recipe (big family), I needed to use up some fresh basil but didnt have enough for two batches so I used a large (costco size) jar of Ragu chunky with the required other ingredients. When all the kids eat it is a 5 star meal! Thanks for posting.
     
  4. nataliegoes
    I was actually disappointed because it was so tasty. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense, but after spending a lot of time and totally demolishing my kitchen, I hoped that I would never have to make this recipe again. I was never able to get the cream sauce to simmer, and who has a double boiler these days? I think I'll look for an easier recipe.
     
  5. Irish Rose
    This is a wonderful recipe! The only change I made was to include homemade meatballs along the sides before adding the sauce. Definitely company worthy. I had enough to make two pans and freeze one for later. As always, your recipes shine.
     
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Tweaks

  1. Jennacooks
    I read this in the original Cook's Illustrated issue but we lost it, so I'm so glad to see the recipe posted here. A few things I'd add: 1) to the people saying that you should substitute ricotta instead of cottage cheese: ricotta is the traditional cheese used for baked ziti, but if you read Cook's Illustrated they made it both ways and found that cottage cheese retained its moisture while ricotta dried out. They substituted cottage cheese instead of ricotta and got better results, so stay with cottage cheese. 2) to save some steps / time: you can use jarred alfredo sauce instead of mixing cream/cornstarch and get the exact same results. In fact, they did it that way in Cook's Illustrated and got the same results as mixing your own cream sauce. They just put mixing your own cream sauce in the final recipe because they wanted it to be all from scratch. So, save yourself some time and effort and use jarred alfredo sauce! 3) this is also great with vodka sauce instead of straight tomato sauce, and I do like to add more cubes of mozzarella. Great, great recipe that really feeds a crowd -- thanks for posting!
     
  2. LorenLou
    OMG.....I had a really good ziti recipe but this one puts it to shame. My friend actually had the Cook's Illustrated and let me read it. It explains why cottage cheese over ricotta, why the mozzarella cheese is cubed, etc., and it all totally makes sense. I have been begging for her to send me the recipe all week and was so happy to find it here. I really don't like to make substitutions when I'm reviewing a recipe. I feel it should be prepared as written for a proper review. That said, we're not into "chunky", so I subbed another can of tomato sauce for the diced tomatoes. That's the only change I made. This is the creamiest, most flavorful ziti ever. Hands down, my family agreed, we throw out the old recipe!
     
  3. duonyte
    I was coming to post the recipe, and pleased to see it here. I made half the recipe, and it was really delicious. CI recommends using 2 tsp cornstarch if using whole milk instead of cream. I could not find my cornstarch, so I made a roux and used the milk to make a bechamel. That worked out very well. I also added some Italian sausage - a local market makes it with beef instead of pork, and it really worked well with the rest. A great dinner.
     

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