This is one of those recipes that is so in my bones, I don't even remember where I originally got it from. All I know is that this is a recipe for ooey gooey warm deliciousness in a pan.
Definitely one to have around for the winter. And whenever you're watching a Godfather or Sopranos marathon. Am I the only one who craves homemade Italian food when I watch those? I see Carmela take a pan of ziti out of her fridge for the priest who's stopped by and I am like instantly drooling.
Anyway...I digress. Back to the recipe. It's like an easier lasagna, really. And the truth is that the last time I used actual ziti as the pasta in the recipe was nearly 8 years ago -- any short, tube-like pasta will do: penne, rigatoni, fusilli, whatever's easy and on hand. We actually like it best with Trader Joe's organic whole wheat fusilli, but that's just us.
Dena's Baked Ziti
1 lb. short, tubular pasta (like ziti or penne) 1 lb. ground beef (leave this out or substitute with fake meat for vegetarian version) 16 oz. mozzarella, grated 3-4 oz. parmesan, grated 4 (or more, if you're like me) garlic cloves, chopped 1 onion, finely diced 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes 2 tbsp olive oil dash of oregano
Preheat your oven to 450F.
Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. When it's shimmery and hot, add the onion and garlic and toss and let it get nice and warmed through, about 2 minutes or so.
While the onion and garlic are cooking, set the pasta to cook in boiling, salted water in a large pot.
Once the onion and garlic is very fragrant and the onion is starting to get translucent, add a bit of oregano, and after about a minute, add the ground beef and smush it with the back of a wooden spoon to break it up into small pieces. Let it brown all over.
Once it's browned, add the crushed tomatoes and stir to get everything mixed together. Let it come to a boil, then stir and bring down to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Drain your pasta and put it back in the large pot in which it was boiled. Add the tomato-beef sauce and mix well. See -- this is why you have to make sure you use a big pot!
Add 1/4 of the mozzarella cheese to the pot and mix well so the cheese is everywhere, all melty and gooey and nice. Toss the remaining mozzarella with the parmesan so it's all mixed together well.
Transfer mixture to a 9x13 baking dish and spread it out evenly. Top with the mozzarella-parmesan cheese mixture and make sure it is evenly distributed across the top.
Pop it in the oven for about 5 minutes. Then turn the broiler on high and let it sit under the broiler for as long as it takes for the cheese to get bubbly and browned in places, but not burnt! Broilers can be tricky and finicky -- I find each one has its own temperament (so to speak), so you gotta watch it closely.
When it is browned the way you like it, remove, serve, and enjoyyyyyyyyyy. Press play on the Sopranos DVD.