Does your family love lasagna, but you don’t have time to mess with the layers or broken noodles? Try making baked ziti, which is easier to prepare and has many of the same ingredients as lasagna. It’s an Italian classic comfort food that is perfect for family meals, potlucks, church suppers, or to bring to a sick friend.
1 pound dried ziti pasta, cooked until not quite al dente
3 1/2 cups Bolognese Sauce, recipe follows
Your favorite marinara or Bolognese sauce
1 pound fresh mozzarella, half cut into 1/2-inch cubes and half thinly sliced
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
1 heaping cup ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
Dried or fresh minced parsley, for garnish
Prepare ziti according to directions on package in boiling, salted water. Cook until not quite al dente, leaving it a little firm to the teeth. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large bowl, toss the cooked ziti with the Bolognese or your favorite sauce, cubed mozzarella, half the Parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, black pepper, and pepper flakes, if using. Mix well.
Transfer the pasta to an oiled 9x13-inch baking dish. Cover ziti with the sliced mozzarella, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Garnish with parsley. Bake until lightly browned, hot, and bubbly, about 20-25 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
Note: If you have any sauce left over after adding to ziti mixture freeze up to two months or refrigerate and use within 3-4 days.
Mary Anne’s Bolognese Sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, diced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, or more to taste
1 pound ground hamburger
1 pound ground Italian sausage, mild, sweet or hot
2 pounds of either hamburger or Italian sausage
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (14 ½-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained well
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, or more to taste
1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
Handful basil, snipped
Splash of your favorite red wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large skillet heat the olive oil. When oil is hot add the onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, and meat. Sauté over medium heat until the onion and garlic are translucent and meat is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Stir often and watch carefully so seasoning, onions and garlic do not burn. Drain off excess oil.
Add the red wine, tomatoes, cheese, parsley and basil and simmer over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour or so. Season with salt and pepper.
While sauce is thickening prepare pasta as directed on package. Drain and serve sauce over pasta and add more cheese on top of each serving or use in another recipe.