I first had baked ziti - a brilliant dish of penne, pasta sauce flavored with ground beef and/or Italian sausage and melted cheese - when my husband was running for office and a friend dropped it off to lighten the load on me. I'd never even heard of it before, and it was a revelation. As a lover of cheese in pasta, I've made my own version during the years and I took advantage of coming to the "Italian-American" part of my international cuisine exploration to make it again. Once again, we all loved it.
It's a very flexible recipe and you can use Italian sausage instead or in addition to ground beef, any sort of tomato sauce you like, substitute sour cream for the ricotta and use any melty cheeses you like. I used what I had at home. I'm already craving it again.
- 1 lb penne pasta
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp paprika
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 jar pasta sauce
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 8 oz shredded Italian cheese blend
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil a 9"x13" or equivalent size oven-safe dish.
Cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Heat oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft. Add minced garlic and cook for a minute. Add ground beef and cook until brown. Add Italian seasoning, paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Add pasta sauce and wine, bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer until the beef is cooked through and the wine has evaporated.
Spread a ladle of meat sauce on the bottom of the pan. Add half of the penne. Cover with half of the remaining sauce. Spoon half of the ricotta on top of the sauce and then sprinkle half of the shredded cheese. Repeat with the remaining penne, sauce, ricotta and shredded cheese. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top. Cover pot with lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove lid/foil and bake an additional five minutes or until all the cheese melts/browns.
Adapted from several recipes.
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