I’ve been wanting to try this recipe that my grandma sent me for a while but needed a slightly larger crowd (than myself land my dad) to do so. Dinner with Gaylord (fellow foodie), Jules (Gaylord’s wife) and Ariel (Gaylord and Jules’ enthusiastic eater of a toddler) proved to be the perfect opportunity.
We modified the original recipe which called for 36 oz. of (jar) marinara sauce to make our own Creamy Tomato Sauce. Even with making our own sauce this dish was put together in a snap. Relatively speaking anyway. It probably would have been faster if there hadn’t been alcohol consumption (only by me and Gaylord!) and lots of talking to slow us down a tad.
- 12 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. plus 1 1/2 T. salt, divided
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 c. shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
- 1 c. grated parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 lb ziti or penne pasta
- Creamy Tomato Sauce
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
- In a medium bowl, mix ricotta cheese with two tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses and toss to combine.
- When water is boiling, add remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons salt and the pasta. Cook five minutes or until pasta is just starting to soften. Stir occasionally while cooking. Drain pasta reserving 1 1/2 c. of the pasta water. Return pasta to pot. Stir in tomato sauce, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and reserved pasta water.
- Pour half the sauced pasta into a 13×9 inch pan. Drop large spoonfuls of ricotta mixture over the pasta. Then pour remaining pasta over the ricotta. Sprinkle with mozzarella mixture.
- Bake in preheated oven 25 to 35 minutes. Sauce should be bubbling up around the edges.
- To prepare ahead: You can make Baked Ziti with Ricotta Cheese up to two days in advance. Follow the directions above, stopping before baking. Cover the dish with an oiled piece of aluminum foil and refrigerate. When ready to serve, bake covered at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Then uncover and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling around the edges and the dish is heated throughout.
- Garnish with additional freshly grated parmesan cheese, if desired.
We baked this dish 35 minutes. I was in control of the timer and erred on longer time instead of shorter. The cheese topping turned out perfectly crisp (as we all like it). The only thing I would change would be to have a thinner sauce. Although the pasta bake wasn’t dry, it could have been a bit saucier. Perhaps knocking 10 minutes off the bake time would fix that problem as well.