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I am working mom who loves to cook and bake. I hope to keep track of recipes and share some of my better ones. In the process, hopefully my photography and cooking will get better and better!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Baked Ziti

It's pretty uncommon for there to be a casserole, never mind a pasta casserole, that is received warmly in my house by my better half.  But this got treated to seconds!   It was very easy to assemble, although there are some steps depending on whether you want to make your own tomato sauce or not.  

The turkey sausage lightens it somewhat in calories, but it's not exactly weight watchers fare.  It could easily be vegetarian, and also freezes very well.  A friend of mind recently lost her dad, and I gave her a cooler full of prepared meals.  This was in here, as well as chicken taquitos and grilled lemon chicken kebobs.   I pulled it out when my in laws were here, and it was perfect!  Fussing over a meal in advance is great.

Baked Ziti 
adapted from Cooks illustrated via Annies Eats

1 lb.  1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups), divided
Table salt
1 lb. ziti or rigatoni- use something with lines to hold sauce
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
20 oz. turkey sweet Italian sausage
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
5 medium cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
1 tsp. sugar
Ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream or whole milk
8 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, shredded

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F.  Combine cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5 minutes.  Drain the pasta and leave it in the colander.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Crumble in the turkey sausage and cook until no longer pink.  Add in the onion and garlic and continue to cook until the onion is softened and the sausage is completely browned.  Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and the sugar, and season with salt and pepper.  

In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and heavy cream.  Transfer the mixture to the now-empty stockpot over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3-4 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and add the cottage cheese mixture, all of the tomato sauce and 3/4 cup mozzarella.  Stir to combine.  Add the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly with the sauce.

Transfer the pasta to a 9×13″ baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan over the top.  Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or pop it in the freezer at this point.

Remove the foil from the pan and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer.  Cool for 10-20 minutes.  Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons basil to doll it up.

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