Sunday, December 30, 2012

Baked Ziti with Meat Sauce, Ricotta, and Mozzarella

Now that we are finished with cookies, cakes, and holiday goodies (at least for a while), I offer you a tasty dinner option to try in the new year.  I have been trying to find a baked pasta that I like.  I tried several recipes, but none fit the bill.  I wanted some ricotta for creaminess, but too much of it turns me off.  I also wanted something with a little natural sweetness and depth of flavor from homemade tomato sauce, but I didn't want to spend all day on one.  So, I fiddled around until I found something that worked for me.  Here is the finished product. 

This baked ziti is comprised of three main components other than the pasta.  A ricotta mixture makes it creamy, a quick homemade marinara with ground beef and red wine adds depth of flavor and that hint of sweetness I was looking for, and cubes of mozzarella baked within the dish gives you ooey, gooey cheesiness.  Both the ricotta mixture and the sauce can be made up to two days in advance making this an easy dish to assemble in parts and then bake when you want.  The sauce can also be frozen and thawed when needed.

One piece of advice...since the ricotta mixture and mozzarella cubes are added first, and the sauce is then mixed in, try not to overmix the pasta once you add the sauce.  It is good to have a swirled effect so that you get some bites with more ricotta and some with more sauce rather than having a well mixed pink combo throughout.     

Baked Ziti with Meat Sauce, Ricotta, and Mozzarella- serves 6

For the Meat Sauce: 
¾ pound lean ground beef
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
6 basil leaves, chiffonade
½ onion, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
½ red wine
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp olive oil

For the Ricotta Mixture:
1 cup ricotta cheese
¾ cup grated pecorino romano
6 basil leaves, chiffonade
generous pinch of grated nutmeg
1 egg yolk
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

1 pound ziti
½ pound mozzarella, cut into small cubes
½ cup grated parmesan

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 

In a skillet, heat the olive oil for the sauce.  Add the onion and cook 5 minutes until tender.  Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.  Brown the ground beef in the skillet with the onions and garlic until cooked through.  Add the wine and cook 5 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half.  Pour in the can of crushed tomatoes along with the salt, pepper, sugar, and basil.  Cook the sauce 20 minutes until thickened. 

While the sauce cooks, boil your pasta.  Once al dente, drain and set aside until the sauce is ready. 

In a large bowl, mix all the ricotta mixture ingredients.  Once the pasta is cooked, pour the pasta and the mozzarella cubes into the bowl with the ricotta mixture and mix gently.  Pour the meat sauce over the pasta and mix briefly.  Pour the pasta into a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Sprinkle the top with the parmesan and bake 20 minutes until brown and bubbly.  Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.   

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  1. I make a similar dish, only use the whole egg - one of the family favourites! Now you have me hungry for some ;)

  2. I cooked it for dinner today,wow the favors i added a little something extra.. Needless to say the family called it a home run...

  3. can I reduce the pepper since my husband doesn't like spicy food?