Sunday, August 23, 2009

Baked Ziti

This is the BEST baked ziti I've ever had! I got the recipe from a friend, who got it from Cooks Illustrated. It was really, REALLY good. It wasn't dried out on top and mushy in the middle like all of the other baked ziti I've had. I added 1/2 lb. pork sausage that I browned with a generous dose of Italian Seasoning. We will be having this again. Often.

Baked Ziti

1 pound 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 pound ziti or penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the cottage cheese, eggs and 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese together in a medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, about 7 minutes (the pasta will finish cooking in the oven). Drain pasta and leave in colander. Do not wash the large pot.

  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, basil and oregano, and sugar; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Take off heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Stir cornstarch into heavy cream and transfer mixture to the now-empty large pot the pasta cooked in. Set the pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup tomato mixture, and half of the mozzarella. Stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.

  4. Transfer mixture to a 9X13 baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese over the top. Cover the baking dish with foil that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes.

  5. Remove foil and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve.

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