Friday, July 26, 2013

Ziti Pasta Bake

 We love pasta in our house and I'm always playing around with new ways of enjoying it.   I made this very creamy and saucy Ziti Pasta bake for my family the other day for lunch.  My husband loved it so much he said he would eat it again for dinner.  My son and daughter chimed in that they also would eat it for dinner too.  Hooray!!  I got two meals out of this one... Mommy got to put up her feet and relax at dinner time.

If you look at the ingredients listed below, don't get scared of the long list.  It's a pretty quick dish that can be done in 30 minutes of stove top time and 30 minutes of oven time.  I described this Ziti as cheesy and saucy because this pasta dish is full of spicy pasta sauce and creamy ricotta cheese.  I served it with a green salad and some bread to round out the meal.  It was so delicious... making two meals out of it in one day was a tasty decision.

1lb box Ziti Pasta (boiled to al dente) drained (see notes below)
Prepared pasta sauce (see recipe below)
P portion ricotta mixture  (see recipe below)
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Ingredients for pasta sauce:
1lb lean ground beef (or chicken, turkey, pork, lamb)
1 (32 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can of crushed tomatoes (or diced tomatoes if your want texture)
3-4 cloves garlic minced or grated
1 green bell pepper diced small
1 medium onion diced small
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
red chili flakes (to taste)
1-2 Tbs sugar (to taste)
salt and black pepper to taste
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup starchy pasta water reserved from boiling pasta

Ricotta mixture:
1 24 oz package ricotta cheese or cottage cheese (cottage cheese is usually less expensive)
1 egg
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and black pepper

Cook pasta as directed  by package instructions in well salted water.  Drain it shy by 1 minute of  the recommended cooking time.  You will finish cooking the pasta in the oven.

Make Ricotta mixture by mixing all ingredients together.  Set aside.

Next, make the sauce by browning the ground meat.  Then add onion, bell pepper, garlic, salt and black pepper.  Then add tomato sauce, dried oregano, sugar, dried basil, red chili flakes and reserved pasta water.  Simmer sauce for 15-20 minutes on medium heat. Finish  by stirring the remaining Parmesan cheese into the sauce. 

To make Ziti, mix cooked pasta with 3/4 of prepared sauce,  1/3 of the prepared  ricotta mixture and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese,

Place all dressed pasta into a baking dish. Take remaining ricotta mixture and place in dollops over the pasta.  Top with remaining pasta sauce (just cover as much of the pasta with your remaining sauce).  Finally top with remaining grated mozzarella cheese.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Allow pasta to sit for 15 minutes before serving.  Enjoy.

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