With the arrival of Fall (and cold weather) this past week, I have been craving warm and satisfying comfort food. Here’s one of my favorites from home that I make at least once a week: Baked Ziti aka the true definition of soul food.
1 pound (or one box) of penne or ziti (personal favorite brand is Barilla)
1-2 jars of tomato sauce (save yourself the time it would take to be fancy and make your own tomato sauce)
1 container of 2% milk ricotta cheese
1 package of shredded mozzarella (again, all about saving time, so buying shredded is a definite must)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Disposable baking tin
Here’s what you’ll do:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the oven is preheating, boil a pot of water for the pasta. Remember, even though it sounds cheesy, “a watched pot never boils”, and I swear to you it seems like it takes forever for a pot of water to boil while you’re watching it, so occupy your time with something else during this time. Also remember to generously salt your water.
Cook the pasta a little under the recommend time, because the pasta will cook longer in the oven (usually about 8-10 minutes) and DO NOT rinse after draining.
In the baking tin, pour a layer of tomato sauce at the bottom of the pan
Place the cooked pasta on top of the sauce
Dollop the ricotta in rows all along the pasta (don’t ask why, it’s what my grandmother swears by)
Freshly crack the black pepper along the ricotta as desired
Pour rest of sauce on top and spread the ricotta along the top of the pasta, making sure everything is mixed extremely well (again, amount of sauce varies depending on type of baked ziti you’re looking for).
TASTE the mixture before you add the layer of mozzarella on top to adjust seasoning and sauce levels *caution–the mixture will taste extremely good and it will be difficult to resist eating the whole tin of the uncooked baked zitti, but use restraint. I promise, it’s worth it*
Pour *all* of the mozzarella cheese in an even layer and bake the tin for 30-45 minutes. 5 minutes before it’s finished, make sure you turn your oven on broil to brown the cheese, but make sure you watch it, because that cheese can burn quickly.
This recipe should serve between 4-6 people, but if you’re like my family and like to eat more than a normal serving, I would suggest making more than the recipe calls for because I have seen my parents demolish a tin between the two of them.