When I am craving something comforting and warm, I want this easy baked pasta for dinner. It has all of the things that I want when I have had a long and trying day. Pasta? Check. Cheese? Three kinds. Crusty top? Yup. We eat a lot of vegetarian dishes at our house to observe Meatless Monday and now Lent; I cannot have enough vegetarian recipes in my arsenal. What I love about this baked pasta dish is that I can put it all together earlier in the day (or freeze it) and put in the oven when we are ready for dinner. Everyone in my house likes this because it is simple and filling. I can also hide some veggies in it, sauteed mushrooms and peppers are so good in this pasta. Of course, you could add some sausage or meatballs too. This is my favorite way to make (and eat) baked pasta, but I am sure that there a million ways to make it.
Of course you can use a jarred tomato sauce for this recipe, but I like to make my own. I like to make huge batches of sauce and keep them in my fridge and freezer.
1 pound rigatoni (or whatever tube shape you have)
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 jar tomato sauce
Cook the rigatoni in a pot of boiling, salted water. Cook according to the package directions, but drain when the pasta still has some bite to it, maybe 2 minutes before the end of the cooking time. It is also going to cook in the oven, you do not want your pasta to be overcooked. Reserve a little cooking water.
Mix together the ricotta cheese, garlic, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and 1/4 cup parsley. The rest of the cheese and parsley will be used for the top.
Season well with salt and pepper.
Add the ricotta cheese mixture and half of the tomato sauce to the pot.
Mix until it coats all of the pasta. If it is too thick, add a bit of the pasta water to thin it out.
Spread the pasta evenly into a 9×13 casserole dish.
Spread the rest of the pasta sauce over the top.
Add the mozzarella cheese, remaining Parmesan, and remaining parsley to the top.
Cover with foil and put the baked ziti in the fridge until you are ready to bake it off. Or cook it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes covered with tin foil. Take the tin foil off and cook for another 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
Let the pan sit for at least 10 minutes before you cut it. If I am really motivated, I serve with with a salad and garlic bread.