i have a horrible confession: this is the first time i've ever made baked ziti. crazy, right? i've eaten it plenty of times, with meat, without meat, chuck full of mushrooms and other vegetables. but never made it myself. which is silly, since it's everything we love about spaghetti, in a portable, shareable size. and share is exactly what i did.
another confession: i made this ziti about two months ago, for my boss' after the holidays potluck. i was skeptical at first - with the ham, cheesy potato casserole, brownies, salads, and other treats, i wasn't sure how a simple baked ziti would go over. but when it was time to leave and there were two sad looking pieces left, i knew this was a keeper. now i just need another reason to make it again.
not cooking for a crowd? make the full recipe and divide it among two 8x8 inch or 9x9 inch pans. eat one now, freeze one for later.
ultimate baked ziti
adapted from Cook's Country Best Potluck Recipes
20 min prep + 1 hour to bake, makes one 9x13" pan
1 pound ziti
1 pound whole milk cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese, grated
5 garlic cloves, minced
28 ounce can tomato sauce
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped, plus a bit more to top the pasta
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
8 ounces whole milk mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
preheat your oven to 350F.
- cook the ziti in boiling water. prepare the tomato sauce (step 4) while the ziti cooks. drain and do not rinse.
- mix the cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup of the parmesan cheese together and set aside.
- heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat the bottom with olive oil. saute the garlic a couple minutes until fragrant, but not brown. add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano. simmer until thick, about 10 minutes. remove the sauce from heat and stir in the basil and sugar and season with salt and pepper.
- whisk the cream and cornstarch together in a small bowl. transfer to the pasta cooking pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. cook until thick, about four minutes. remove from heat and mix in the cottage cheese mixture, about 1 cup of the tomato sauce, and half of the mozzarella. add the pasta and mix well. transfer to a 9x13 inch baking dish.
- spread the rest of the tomato sauce evenly over the top of the pasta. sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup parmesan cheese over the top.
- spray one side of a piece of aluminum foil with nonstick spray. cover the pan with the foil, sprayed side down, and bake for 30 minutes. remove the foil and bake until the cheese is bubbling, an additional 30 minutes. cool for 10 minutes before sprinkling with basil and serving.