It's December. It's cold outside. This is the time of year when I start to crave hot comfort food that comes right out of the oven and warms up the house. Comfort food looks different for different people. For me, anything that involves pasta and cheese is comfort food for me, be it macaroni and cheese, lasagna, or, today's treat, baked ziti.
I was inspired to make baked ziti when I stumbled across a blog called Baked Bree. While browsing through the myriad of recipes of all kinds she has (including candied bacon cookies!!) I stumbled across a recipe for her Easy Baked Pasta. It looked delicious and with my insane recent cravings for garlic bread as of late, it sounded like the perfect thing to warm up my chilly house and a great excuse to eat garlic bread.
The ingredients are simple and very inexpensive. I have found that 9 times out of 10 some brand of all of the ingredients are on sale somewhere. Pasta is often $1 per box, and the same with pasta sauce, and the good thing about baked pasta is that the quality of sauce doesn't really matter as much as it would if you were making spaghetti and meatballs. I always have Parmesan cheese on hand, so all I needed was the mozzarella and ricotta, and both were on sale.
I halved the recipe since I'm only cooking for one and no one wants to eat the same meal four times in one week. It made enough for a healthy portion for tonight and enough for one night of leftovers later in the week. The recipe was delicious and absolutely succeeded warming up my house and satisfied my want for comfort food and my craving for garlic bread.
Easy Baked Pasta
1 pound rigatoni (or whatever tube shape you have)
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 jar tomato sauce
1) Cook the rigatoni in a pot of boiling, salted water. Cook according to the package directions, but drain when the pasta still has some bite to it, maybe 2 minutes before the end of the cooking time. It is also going to cook in the oven, you do not want your pasta to be overcooked. Reserve a little cooking water.
2) Mix together the ricotta cheese, garlic, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and 1/4 cup parsley. The rest of the cheese and parsley will be used for the top.
3) Season well with salt and pepper.
4) Add the ricotta cheese mixture and half of the tomato sauce to the pot.
5) Mix until it coats all of the pasta. If it is too thick, add a bit of the pasta water to thin it out.
6) Spread the pasta evenly into a 9×13 casserole dish.
7) Spread the rest of the pasta sauce over the top.
8) Add the mozzarella cheese, remaining Parmesan, and remaining parsley to the top.
9) Cover with foil and put the baked ziti in the fridge until you are ready to bake it off. Or cook it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes covered with tin foil. Take the tin foil off and cook for another 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
10) Let the pan sit for at least 10 minutes before you cut it.