I love pasta dishes, and I really love baked ziti but have never had a great recipe for it, until now! This was fantastic – perfectly cheesy with the right amount of sauce and it is packed with flavor. It makes a lot and I’m betting it freezes beautifully (although I haven’t tried that yet). One great thing about this meal is you can make it earlier in the day and pop it in the oven when you are getting ready for dinner – that way it isn’t crazy right around the “crunch time” of dinner. It seems every time I got to make dinner my kids suddenly decide to either strangle each other or cling to my legs. Please tell me I am not alone in this. So I’m all about meals I can make beforehand!
- 1 pound 1% cottage cheese
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 ounces grated parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 pound ziti or other similar pasta (like penne)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 medium garlic cloves, finely minced (about 5 teaspoons)
- 1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried basil (use 1/2 cup fresh basil if you have it but add it to the sauce after it has simmered and you take it off the heat)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 cup heavy cream (or substitute whole milk but increase the amount of cornstarch to 2 teaspoons and the cooking time in step 3 by 1 to 2 minutes)
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the cottage cheese, eggs and 1 cup of the paremsan cheese together in a medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, about 7 minutes (the pasta will finish cooking in the oven). Drain pasta and leave in colander. Do not wash the large pot.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, sugar, basil and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Take off heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir cornstarch into heavy cream and transfer mixture to the now-empty large pot the pasta cooked in. Set the pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup of the simmered tomato sauce, and half of the mozzarella cubes, then stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.
- Transfer mixture to a 9X13-inch baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cubes and remaining 1/2 cup parmesan cheese over the top. Cover the baking dish with foil that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove foil and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve.
Freezable Meal: Prepare recipe right up until the baking step and then cover with a double layer of aluminum foil. Freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. To bake, increase baking time to 1 hour and 15 minutes, with the final 30 minutes baking the dish uncovered as stated in the initial recipe.If baking from frozen, bake covered for 1 hour and 30 minutes, uncover and bake 30 minutes longer.
Recipe Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated