Hello my friends. It’s been a while. Since we’ve last spoken, David “ran a marathon” and our oldest turned 15, got his learner’s permit, had his wisdom teeth pulled, and grew as tall as me.
Also since we’ve spoken, I have made a variation of this ziti by Ree Drummond 3 times. Everyone likes it, even Elizabeth. That is not a misprint. I will admit – there is a timing element, aka, pain in the butt factor, of this dish so allocate enough time for the cooking, simmering, cooling, and baking (right, Mom?). Nothing says “happy end of summer” like a hot pasta casserole.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ large onion, diced
- 1 pound ground meat (i.e., ground beef, Italian sausage, ground turkey)
- 1 – 14.5-ounce can tomato sauce or marinara sauce
- 1 – 14.5-ounce can tomatoes with juice, like Petite Cut Diced Tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ pound ziti
- 2 cups mozzarella, grated
- Half of a 15-ounce tub whole-milk ricotta
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 egg
Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and saute until starting to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ground meat (beef, sausage, turkey or a combo of any 2) and cook until browned. Drain off almost all of the fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture. Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and some salt and pepper. Stir, bring to a simmer and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove 1 ½ - 2 cups of the cooked sauce to a bowl to cool down.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add some salt. Cook the ziti until not quite al dente.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a bowl, mix 1 cup of the grated mozzarella, the ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, eggs and some salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).
Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps). Add the cooled reserved meat sauce and toss to combine.
Add half the coated pasta to a 3-quart Pyrex dish. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with 1/2 cup of mozzarella. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta and the remaining sauce and another 1/2 cup of mozzarella.
Bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes; sprinkling with chopped parsley before serving, if desired.