I’ve always been a fan of baked ziti…well really just about any baked pasta dish. I mean who doesn’t enjoy pasta smothered with cheese?! This recipe promised a flavorful dish without the rubbery cheese, grainy sauce, and mushy noodles found in many other baked ziti recipes. It definitely lived up to those expectations! I think it had a lot to do with the technique used in making a white sauce with a cottage cheese base versus traditional ricotta cheese. Not to mention the use of tons fresh basil, which I love. It was fabulous and the friends we had over for dinner that night agreed this dish was by far one of the best they’d had. It does however make a huge pan of ziti, so I would recommend inviting some friends over for a great meal or be prepared to eat lots of leftovers during the week. Either way, this recipe is worth the extra effort!
1 lb. 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese, grated
1 lb. ziti noodles
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon sugar
Ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. low-moisture mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350°.
In a large dutch oven over high heat bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. When water is boiling stir in 1 tablespoon of salt and ziti noodles. Stir occasionally until pasta is softened but not cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Drain pasta and leave in colander. Do not was the dutch oven as in will be used again shortly.
In a medium bowl, combine the cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup of the parmesan cheese. Over medium heat, in a 12-inch skillet heat the garlic and olive oil until the garlic is fragrant but not brown approximately 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until thickened. Remove pan from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of basil and sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and heavy cream. Transfer the mixture to the dutch oven set over a medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until it is thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Once thickened, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup of the tomato sauce, and 3/4 cup of the diced mozzarella until combined. Add the cooked ziti and stir to coat.
Transfer the pasta to a 13×9 inch baking dish. Spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the pasta. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella and 1/2 cup parmesan. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and cook for approximately 30 minutes longer or until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of basil and serve.
Filed under: Italian, Main entree, Vegetarian | 1 Comment