It feels like Italian week around here. We’ve been eating a lot of pasta lately. This is great if you like leftovers. I put the leftovers into wide-mouth glass pint jars (I always use glass jars, never plastic bowls) and send it to work with Mike for his lunch. It reheats wonderfully.
Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 45 mins
- 1 Small Box Penne or Ziti Pasta
- 1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce
- 1 Large Can Crushed Tomatoes with Garlic
- 1 Can Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilis
- 1 1/2 Pounds Ground Beef
- 1 Large Onion, Chopped
- 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 2 Cups Ricotta Cheese
- 2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese, Divided
- 1 Cup Shredded Cheese Blend (4 or 6 Cheese)
- 1/4 Cup Butter (1/2 stick), Soft
- 1 Egg
- 1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Dried Parsley
- 1 Tablespoon Dried Basil
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Put pasta on to boil, cook until not quite done. It should still be a little tough. It will finish cooking in the oven and be perfect. If you boil it to well done, it can turn out mushy after baking. Yuck.
While pasta is boiling, peel and chop onions and garlic. Saute in a large nonstick skillet with ground beef until beef is well done. As beef is browning, break it apart with your spatula until you have small bite-sized or smaller chunks.
Once beef is browning, in a large sauce pan, mix together 1 jar of spaghetti sauce, 1 can crushed tomatoes, and 1 can diced tomatoes.
Tip: The spaghetti sauce I use is rather thick straight out of the jar. I don’t drain the diced tomatoes, just pour the juice and tomatoes all into the sauce. It helps loosen up the sauce without making it runny. If your sauce is already thin, drain the diced tomatoes before adding them.
If you like your pasta saucier, you may want to add a second jar of spaghetti sauce or a second can of crushed tomatoes. I always do because I get very annoyed when I order baked ziti in a restaurant and it comes out dry with very little sauce. If you end up with too much sauce, keep the leftovers in your fridge for pizza sauce.
Mix sauce and tomatoes well and simmer over medium low heat until warm.
If your pasta is done, drain and set aside. Now it’s time to make the cheesy filling.
Add the ricotta cheese to a large mixing bowl. Add one cup of the shredded mozzarella cheese and one cup of the shredded cheese blend. Add the soft (not melted, just soft) butter, the raw egg, and the dried spices. Mix well.
To start building the ziti, spray a large lasagna pan with non-stick cooking spray. Add a very small amount of sauce, maybe a half cup, to the bottom of your pan and spread around.
Drain the grease off your ground beef. Add the beef to the lasagna pan in an even layer. Add one-third to one-half of the remaining sauce to your pan, pouring it slowly over the ground beef so it is evenly distributed.
Next add the cheese filling. Drop it by large spoonfuls onto the sauce and beef. Once you have all the cheese filling in the pan, you can push it around gently with your fingers and pat it down to fill any holes so you have a somewhat even layer of cheese.
Now you want to add your drained pasta directly on top of the cheese mixture. Make an even layer of pasta. Add the remaining sauce over the top of the pasta. Then sprinkle the remaining cup of shredded mozzarella and shredded cheese blend over the top of the sauce.
Bake uncovered in your oven at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes.