Sunday, June 3, 2012

Baked Ziti

Baked ziti is a perfect example of how versatile pasta can be as a base for casseroles. In this recipe, mozzarella provides the binding agent. Fresh mozzarella is preferred for moisture and creaminess, but regular block mozzarella can be used. If ziti can’t be found, other kinds of  short, tubular pastas such as macaroni, rigatoni, or penne will work nicely.

Equipment Needed
Cutting board
Chef’s knife
Garlic press (optional)
Box grater
Rasp grater or micro-plane
Measuring cups and spoons
Dutch oven or large pot
Large skillet
9” x 13” glass baking dish
Large spoon

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon salt, for boiling water
4 quarts water
1 pound ziti
2 tablespoon olive oil, separated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, for sauce

Placing a rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Begin bringing the water to a boil in a Dutch oven or large cooking pot to cook the pasta.

In the meantime, make the sauce. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the canned tomatoes, crushed and diced, along with their canning juice. Cook until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the basil, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remove from the heat.

When the water is boiling, add 1 tablespoon salt and the ziti. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the ziti is mostly tender, but still a little firm, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and return to the Dutch oven. Stir the tomato sauce into the ziti, tossing to coat.

Grease a 9” x 13” glass baking dish with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Spread half the ziti mixture evenly into the dish. Sprinkle half the mozzarella cheese and half the Parmesan cheese evenly over the pasta layer. Repeat, layering with the remaining ziti and cheeses.

Bake until the cheeses turn golden brown and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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