Now that the winter is no doubt upon us – I am ready for baked pasta dishes. There is something so satisfying and comforting about pasta baked with sauce and cheeses.
This version mixes in some pesto sauce right in with the ricotta cheese mixture. Its an easy way to get that fresh herb taste – without having to buy fresh herbs! I can’t just walk into my backyard and pick some fresh basil anymore – so this is perfect. My grocery store has a great olive bar that also has fresh-made pesto – so I bought just the amount that I would need for this recipe.
- 1 pound ziti
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes in thick puree
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper, divided
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 2 cups grated Mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1/3 cups Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1/4 cup store-bought or homemade pesto
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
2. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, salt and bay leaf.
3. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until very thick, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in 1/4 tsp. of the pepper. Remove the bay leaf.
4. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta for 7 minutes. (It will be partially cooked). Drain.
5. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella, 3 Tbsp. of the Parmesan, the pesto and remaining 1/4 tsp. pepper.
6. Put half of the cooked pasta into the prepared baking dish and top with about a third of the tomato sauce. Spread the ricotta mixture on the sauce in an even layer. Cover with the remaining pasta and then the remaining sauce. Top with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella and the rest of the Parmesan.
7. Bake, covered with foil about 30 minutes; then remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until top begins to brown. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting.
Source: adapted from Bake-aholic