Baked Ziti

One more week until I’m back home for summer!!  I can hardly contain my excitement. I really do hope I’m not boring you with my countdown. I think I’m just at the point right now where I am so sick of school and studying for exams, and I’m so close to being home for summer vacation that I’m starting to get hysterical. I hope I don’t freak you out.

I’m also at the point where I should be trying to finish all of the food in my fridge and freezer seeing as I won’t be back here for four months when school starts again. Yet I went out and bought 20 oz. of Italian sausage (pretty sure mine was pork, not turkey) and a tub of cottage cheese just so I could try out this recipe for a delicious, cheesy pasta casserole type dish. Trust me, it did not disappoint.

Baked Ziti

1 lb. whole milk or 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups), divided
Table salt
1 lb. ziti (or any tube pasta)
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
20 oz. turkey Italian sausage
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
5 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
1 tsp. sugar
Ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream (or whole milk)
8 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F.  Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5-7 minutes.  Drain the pasta and leave in colander.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Crumble in the turkey sausage and cook until nearly browned.  Add in the onion and garlic and continue to cook until the onion is softened and the sausage is completely browned.  Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and the sugar, and season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and heavy cream.  Transfer the mixture to the now-empty stockpot over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3-4 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and add the cottage cheese mixture, 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce and 3/4 cup mozzarella.  Stir to combine.  Add the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly with the sauce.

Transfer the pasta to a 9×13″ baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan over the top.  Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil from the pan and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer.  Cool for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.

Source: Annie’s Eats, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, March & April 2009

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  1. Lianna, this looks like comfort food at its best! I have a daughter away at college and am counting the days down for her to visit for Easter so I completely understand how you feel. I just hope my daughter is as excited to come home as you are!

    • This definitely is the best kind of comfort food, and makes for really great leftovers!
      I’m sure your daughter is just as excited as I am to be home! While it’s great experiencing life away from home and making new friends in a new place, it’s always so nice to go back to my real home where I grew up, and be with my Mom who takes care of me and spoils me unconditionally 😛


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