We had some of our favorite friends over on Friday night for dinner. We have fondly labeled these dinners as "family dinners" and have been doing them monthly for the past year- rotating houses. Each dinner will typically have a theme and ours was Italian- mangia! I made short-cut baked ziti and it was delicious. I am labeling it "short cut", because I did not make homemade sauce. I did not have enough time for the real deal, but it was delizioso! See for yourself...
1 box of Ziti pasta
2 jars of pasta sauce (I use Ragu with Sauteed Onions and Garlic)
1-2 lbs of ground turkey (Depends how much meat you like. You can use ground beef, but I'm not the biggest fan of red meat.)
16 oz container Ricotta cheese (I use part-skim)
1 yellow or sweet onion chopped
5 cloves of garlic chopped
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1. In a large skillet, thoroughly cook ground turkey.
2. Meanwhile, boil the water for the pasta.
3. Drain the meat and then add the onion and garlic. Saute until fragrant. It's OK if the onions are still a little crunchy- they will thoroughly cook in the oven.
4. Add both jars of sauce to the skillet and mix.
5. Once the water has come to a rolling boil, add the box of pasta and under cook until it's slightly firmer than al dente or about 4 minutes.
6. Combine the ricotta cheese and the egg in a separate bowl until smooth.
7. Drain pasta and return to pot.
8. Mix in the ricotta cheese/egg mixture with the pasta until thoroughly blended.
9. In a large casserole dish (one that is fairly deep), layer the sauce meat mixture on the bottom to prevent sticking. Then add the pasta/cheese mixture. Sprinkle a layer of mozzarella cheese. Add another layer of the sauce/meat mixture, then the pasta/cheese mixture and top with a final layer of mozzarella.
10. If serving immediately, cook in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes covered. Uncover and cook for an additional 5 minutes. If you are refrigerating it before serving, you'll cook it at 350 for an hour covered and an additional 15 minutes uncovered. This is also a great dish to make and freeze. If you're cooking it frozen, it will most likely take 1.5 hours or longer covered followed by 15 minutes uncovered. You can also make "personal pan baked ziti" using mini baking dishes. This another fun way to serve this dish!