Otoro's Ultimate Baked Ziti

READY IN: 1hr 15mins
SERVES: 8-10




  • To make the sauce: heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a 5 quart pot. Add onions and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook 3-5 minutes.
  • Add garlic (reserve 1 teaspoon) and ground round and season with salt and pepper, continue to cook until meat is cooked through. Drain off excess fat if desired.
  • Add all your tomato products, wine, parsley stems and bay leaf. Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer. Taste the sauce, if it seems too sour add a bit of sugar. Stir occasionally.
  • To make the meatballs: in a nonreactive bowl mix the remaining pound of meat with 2 T. parsley, breadcrumbs, 2 eggs, 1 t. garlic, 1/2 cup Parmesan/Romano cheese, 1 t. salt, pepper to taste, and 2 T. olive oil.
  • Shape into balls about the size of a cherry tomato, brown in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil. Drain on paper towels. They don't need to be cooked through, they will finish cooking in the sauce.
  • Add the meatballs to the sauce along with the remaining herbs, simmer 30-45 minutes longer.
  • Cook the ziti in boiling water slightly firmer than al dente. Drain.
  • In the pasta cooking pot, add the pasta along with several ladles of sauce, meatballs, half the remaining Parmesan and half the mozzarella, stir to combine.
  • Mix the ricotta with the egg until smooth.
  • In a large baking dish, add a couple ladles of sauce to the bottom of the dish. Add half the pasta mixture, then spread all the ricotta in one even layer. Then a layer of mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat with remaining pasta, then cheeses. I usually have a little pasta left that won't fit in the dish so don't worry, it makes a nice little snack while you wait.
  • Cover with foil and bake at 350ºF for 45 minutes, then uncovered for an additional 15-30 minutes until bubbly.
  • Let sit 10 minutes before serving with a big spoon. Bon Appetito.