Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Baked Ziti

We've been watching a lot of Chef Ramsey TV in our house and it's amazing!! One guy has described himself as "the Flavor Elevator" and another woman just pulled off her own hair. I'm telling you, it's amazing. It's hilarious and it's incredible and it's inspiring. I am loving it.

Anyway - we had company over last weekend and I made a huge baked ziti. When I read the recipe and it said it would feed 8-10 with just one pound of pasta, I was skeptical, but in fact, this thing was huge! And even better, it was delicious! Rich, cheesy and amazing!

Baked Ziti - adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Really and truly serves 8-10

1 pound Italian sausage
16 ounce container whole milk cottage cheese (or ricotta)
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese (divided)
1 1/2 cups frozen chopped spinach
1 pound ziti (or penne or other short tube pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves of garlic - minced
2 15 ounce cans tomato sauce 
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces mozzarella cheese - 1/2 of it shredded, 1/2 of it chopped into dice

Whisk cottage cheese (or ricotta) eggs, spinach and 1 cup of Parmesan in a large bowl and set aside. Boil water for noodles and cook until softened but cooked through - about 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and set aside. The noodles finish cooking while baking.

While noodles cook, heat oil in a large skillet. Take sausage out of the casings and cook with the minced garlic until browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and oregano and simmer until thickened - about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the basil and sugar. Taste and add salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch into heavy cream. In a heavy bottomed pan, simmer the cream until thickened and bubbling at the edges, but not boiling, about 3 minutes over medium heat. 

Stir this hot cream into the cottage cheese and spinach mixture prepared earlier. Add 1 cup of the tomato and sausage sauce and the diced mozzarella and stir to combine.

Pour the noodle mixture into a very large baking dish - the dish I used was an oval 9x13 dish that's about 3 inches deep - top with the shredded mozzarella and the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

A few things about this recipe...

This makes a HUGE casserole - it was dinner for 4 adults, 2 kids, and 4 more adult lunches. 

The sauce cooked with this was really simple, but really great - I'll use this as a base for other pastas sauces in the future.

While the tomato sauce was delicious, if you wanted to speed up this recipe, you could use a jarred marinara that you already liked.

Made this time last year: Whole Wheat Yogurt Pancakes and Turkey Spaghetti