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     Baked Ziti Header

                                      Baked Ziti
   Baked Ziti Photo
Category: Pasta & Rice, Italian-American
Servings: 6 - 8
Total time: 1 hr 10 min
Level: Easy
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An authentic Italian recipe from our kitchen to yours. Buon Appetito!


- 1 pound ground beef, sausage or mixed meats (beef, veal, pork)

- 1 box ziti, penne or rigatoni pasta

- 4 plum tomatoes, diced

- 1/2 onion, peeled and minced

- 3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced

- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

- 1 large bay leaf

- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

- 2 1/2 cups tomato puree

- 6 basil leaves

- 8 ounces fresh ricotta cheese

- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed

- 1/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated

- Salt and pepper


1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare the water for the pasta according to the manufacturer's instructions.

2.  In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil, minced onion and minced garlic along with 1/2 cup water. Sauté the ingredients until the onion begins to turn translucent.

3.  To the pan add the bay leaf, ground beef, nutmeg and a pinch of salt and pepper. Using the back of a fork, continuously mash and sauté the ground beef so that it breaks up into small bits as it cooks and combines with the onion and garlic. Continue sautéing the beef until it begins to brown.




4.  Allow the beef to brown for 3 - 5 minutes and then add the diced tomatoes to the pan. Cover the pan and lower the heat to medium. Cook for 8 - 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have mostly broken down and begin to form a sauce.

5.  When the tomatoes have broken down, remove the bay leaf from the pan and then add the tomato puree, basil leaves and 2/3 cup water. Stir the ingredients well to combine. If the sauce appears too thick, add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup water as necessary. Bring the sauce to a simmer and then cover the pan and continue to simmer for 10 - 15 minutes.

6.  After 10 minutes, taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to your taste. Simmer another 5 minutes and then remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.

7.  Cook the pasta for the ziti according to the manufacturer's instructions. Boil it just to the point of al dente or just prior to reaching al dente and then remove the pasta from the heat and strain it from the cooking water.

8.  Line an oven safe baking dish with parchment paper or spray it with cooking spray to prevent sticking.

9.  Add the pasta to the pan with the meat sauce (if there is not enough room, add both the sauce and the pasta to a large mixing bowl) and combine the ingredients well so that the pasta is thoroughly coated in the sauce.

10.  Dollop the ricotta into the pan with the pasta and meat sauce. Gently fold the mixture so that the ricotta combines but does not dissolve completely into the sauce.

11.  Pour half of the pasta mixture into the baking dish and top with half of the mozzarella and Parmigiano.

12.  Pour the rest of the pasta mixture on top of the first layer and top it with the remaining mozzarella and Parmigiano.

13.  Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place the dish on the center rack in the oven and bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until the cheese is well melted.

14.  Once the cheese has melted, remove the foil cover from the dish and bake uncovered for another 5 - 10 minutes to brown the cheese on top of the casserole.

15.  When the cheese is golden brown, remove the dish from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 - 15 minutes prior to serving.