It was a get-together with plenty of good friends and good food, and a surprise birthday girl. I decided to contribute something Italian, since it is hard to compete with all the authentic Indian, Bengali and Sri Lanka cooks. – Lasagna was first on my mind, but I switched to Baked Ziti since it is easier to serve buffet-style. It came out great, but next time I will add more sauce and cook it less long, since it starts to dry out during reheating. Tasty, nevertheless.
Baked ziti consists of precooked pasta, a meaty tomato sauce and a ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan mixture, ultimately all mixed, layered and baked until bubbly.
I cooked a mixture of pasta, and added 2 bay leaves to give them extra flavor.
The meat sauce with tomatoes.
The mixture of ricotta, shredded mozzarella, parmesan and 1 egg, all mixed. Then add the pasta.
Add most of the meat tomato sauce (but leave 4 cups for layering)>
Prepare the dish.
Bake until bubbly.
- 1 package of pasta (typically 1 pound)
- 1 onion, diced
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 dash of sweet vermouth (optional)
- 2 TB olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 ts dried thyme
- 1 ts dried basil
- 1 ts chili flakes (and a dash of cayenne if you like it hotter)
- 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 small can of tomato sauce
- 1 15oz container of part skim ricotta cheese
- 2 packages of shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan
- 1 egg
- fresh mint or parsley or basil
Cook pasta with salted water for about 9min (slightly undercook).
In a large pan, sautee the onion and garlic in the olive oil, and once softened add in the meat, and break it up with a large spatula. Brown it from all sides. Then add in the tomatoes and tomato sauce and the herbs and spices. Simmer for about 20min.
In a separate large bowl, mix up the ricotta cheese, 1 pouch of mozzarella and parmesan with the egg with a fork. Just mash it up. Add in the pasta, and mix through.
Once the sauce is done, reserve about 4 cups, and mix in the rest of the sauce to the pasta.
Layer half of the pasta mix in an 9x13 inch oven safe baking dish. Even out, and then layer half of the sauce on top, and half of the mozzarella from the second bag. Add the second half of pasta, even out and finish with the remaining sauce and mozzarella.
Preheat oven to 375F, and bake dish for about 25min. To get a brown crust, turn on the broiler for 1.5min at the end of baking. Sprinkle with fresh mint before serving.