Otoro's Ultimate Baked Ziti

"This is similar to the Baked Ziti recipe from the Sopranos Cook Book, only better. Try to use fresh herbs in this if you have them. And please people, don't substitute cottage cheese for ricotta, it's not the same thing. Nor should the ricotta be fat free. I've made double and triple batches of this, sometimes I use Italian sausage along with meatballs. If you do, cook the sausage in the microwave for about 5 minutes then cut in half and drop in the sauce to finish cooking. This is my favorite way to cook Italian sausage, the texture is great and it gives a lot of flavor to the sauce. Once the sausage is cooked (about 25 minutes), cut into bite sized pieces to put in the dish. A note on the meatballs, I like a combination of beef and pork, which you can find at the butcher labeled 'Meatloaf Mix'. The ratio in this is 1:1 pound each: pasta, meatballs, ricotta, mozzarella. If I make a double batch it's two pounds of pasta, meatballs.....you get the idea. The best part of this is the top crust of crispy pasta and cheese. The sauce and meatballs, or even the whole dish can be made a day ahead of time. Awesome delicious Italian comfort food. Serve with garlic bread and salad if you wish."
photo by otoro photo by otoro
photo by otoro
Ready In:
1hr 15mins




  • 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.

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I'm a young, experienced cook who is always eager to learn new techniques and try and perfect new recipes. I've grown up in a Sicilian family and it has a major influence in my cooking. If I'm making something for the first time I research it from many different sources, including this one. My main reason of becoming a member is to share some of my favorite recipes with others. I tend to stray towards the classic, minimalistic approach to cuisine, no blue corn tortilla strips, no mango salsa, no wasabi mashed potatoes. Just great flavors and made from scratch whenever possible. If you see 'Ultimate' in my recipe titles, I mean it. I've done the research and tweaked these recipes after making them many, many, many times until I've got it right. You could say I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Likes: Tony Bourdain, Jacques Pépin, Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, Nobu Matsuhisa, Andrew Zimmern, Alton Brown Dislikes: Rachael Ray, Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri, twist-off beer, light beer, fat-free dairy products (and mayo), margarine, store bought pasta sauce, Parmesan cheese in a can, American cheese
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