Baked Ziti

This dish is perfect for a dinner party or a long weekend. Sauce recipe serves 16, but its always better to make once and eat twice. Freeze the remaining sauce for up to 3 months or keep in the fridge for a week.

Time: 2.5 hrs
Active: 30 minutes
Inactive: 2 hrs

Ingredients

  • 2 Lbs Ground Beef, Browned, salt & peppered
  • 1 White Onion, chopped
  • 2 Lg or 4 Sm garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 oz Tomato Paste
  • 8 oz Red Wine
  • 2 28oz Cans Crushed Tomato
  • 2 14oz Cans Diced Tomato with Italian Herbs
  • Harissa Paste, to taste
  • 11/2 tsp Red Chili Flake
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning, or 3x the amount of fresh herbs (Basil, Marjoram, Thyme, Oregano), chopped
  • 28 oz Water
  • 1 8 oz Block of Cream Cheese, softened
  • 11/2 Cup Cheddar, finely shredded
  • 1/2 Cup Parmesan, grated
  • 1/2 Cup Mozzarella, shredded
  • 3/4 Cup Italian Bread Crumbs
  • 1 Stick Salted butter, melted
  • 1 box Ridged Ziti, cooked al dente

Steps

  1. In a high walled, heavy bottomed dutch oven, brown beef in batches, salting and peppering as needed.
  2. Remove beef from dutch oven with a slotted wooden spoon.
  3. Sweat onions over a high heat. Once nearing translucence, add garlic and cook until fragrant.
  4. Add harissa paste and carmelize slightly.
  5. Wisk together the Tomato Paste and Wine in a small bowl and pour into the pot.
  6. Cook until the smell of alcohol has dissipated and sauce begins to thicken.
  7. Immediately introduce all the tomato products (crushed, diced), herbs, chili flake, and water. Work fond from bottom of pan.
  8. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce to low and cook uncovered for 1 hour, stirring infrequently.
  9. (Optional) 45 minutes into the reduction, introduce fresh chopped tomatoes, or whole peeled tomatoes from a can. This lends a bright citrusy flavor to the final dish.
  10. Begin preheating oven to 350F and introduce the cooked ground beef back into the sauce.
  11. In a separate pot, bring 8 Cups of heavily salted water to a boil and cook the ridged ziti to an al dente state.
  12. Remove half of the sauce and freeze.
  13. Add the block of cream cheese in small pieces and stir infrequently until thoroughly combined.
  14. Combine the remaining sauce and drained ziti in a 9" x 13" casserole dish.
  15. Top with cheese, bread crumbs, and melted butter, in that order.
  16. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until center of dish measures 165F and sauce is bubbling.
  17. Broil uncovered 3-4 minutes, checking frequently to prevent burns until golden brown.