Be still my beating Italian heart… just kidding, I’m not Italian and you don’t have to be either to enjoy this hearty comforting baked pasta dish. This is a classic, old school baked ziti recipe at heart, but it takes a slight deviation by omitting the usual ricotta cheese and instead gets a new school twist in the form of parmesan cream sauce. This ensures that the ziti comes out ultra-creamy rather than grainy, which after all, is what we’re all looking for in a cheesy baked pasta dish like this one.
- 1 1/2 pounds dried ziti or rigatoni pasta
- 4 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
- 2 cups diced mozzarella cheese
- 2 cups sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Fresh basil leaves, torn
- Salt and pepper
- Large baking dish
- Large mixing bowl
- Large pot
- Medium pot
- Aluminum foil
- Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in center position. Boil pasta in a medium pot of salted boiling water until about halfway cooked. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain pasta.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine pasta with 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce, reserved 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, 2 cups diced mozzarella, and 1 cup fresh sliced mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine.
- Scrape into baking dish and press into an even layer. Drizzle remaining 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce over top of pasta.
- Scatter remaining 1 cup sliced mozzarella over top of pasta, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 30 minutes.
- While the pasta is baking, in a medium saucepan, gently simmer cream over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes.
- Sprinkle parmesan cheese into cream and whisk until completely melted and sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.
- Increase oven to 450°F, uncover the pasta, and cook until just starting to brown on top, about 10 minutes.
- Remove pasta from oven. Let stand for 10 minutes, then top with torn basil leaves, spoon onto plates, and drizzle with Parmesan cream sauce. Serve immediately.
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