02 February 2011

Baked Ziti - doesn't sound that interesting, but it is, if the recipe is from ATK.

Baked Ziti
Serves 8 to 10
Baked Ziti - damn good
America's Test Kitchen is great and joining up is easy - it's a sort of cult experience - you just keep joining, but in a good way. This recipe was wonderful! We saw this Baked Ziti on the TV show and I just had to make it. By the way - it's so much better the second day - no duh -- it's a pasta dish. America's Test Kitchen is an amazing resource!

1 pound whole milk cottage cheese or 1 percent cottage cheese 
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
Table salt
1 pound ziti or other short, tubular pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 5 teaspoons)
1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
Ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream - you could use milk, but why?
8 ounces low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella cheese , cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 8 oz)
Cottage Cheese Mixture
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain pasta and leave in colander (do not wash Dutch oven).

Meanwhile, heat oil and garlic in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until garlic is fragrant but not brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in ½ cup basil and sugar, then season with salt and pepper.
Cream Sauce w/Tomato Sauce
Stir cornstarch into heavy cream in small bowl; transfer mixture to now-empty Dutch oven set over medium heat. Bring to simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce, and ¾ cup mozzarella, then stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.
Transfer pasta mixture to 13- by 9-inch baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle remaining ¾ cup mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan over top. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.
Comments: Lots of this recipe can be prepped ahead. I cubed the mozzarella, grated the parmesan and minced the garlic. I could also have cooked the pasta and made the sauce. It's also highly likely the entire dish could be made ahead and baked the next day.
I used dried basil since it's not the time of year for fresh and I didn't move any into the house from the garden last fall - it had all gone to seed. Unfortunate.
It's difficult for me to under cook pasta - it makes me nervous that it won't be fully cooked in the dish (shouldn't have worried - it was fine).
Next time I might just make a bechamel, need to research. Use cooking spray on the pan and the foil so the cheese won't stick. Used heavy cream, did not use milk. Next time, use petite diced tomatoes. House smells like garlic, but that is a good thing.

Perhaps not as pretty as ATK, but amazingly good!

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