The freshly sliced mozzarella, tomatoes and basil on top of this classic dish add a flavorful finish and give it an elegant look at a dinner party. Get together with a friend one afternoon and make two casseroles, one for dinner that night and one for the freezer.
The Cooking With Friends Kitchen
1 pound ziti pasta, cooked al dente for 8 minutes
1 onion, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
2 cups Ricotta cheese
2 eggs well beaten
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 cup fresh basil, washed and chopped into strips
4 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
5 cups tomato sauce (see our Tomato Basil Marinara recipe on the web site)
Brown garlic, onion and ground beef in a skillet, seasoning with salt and pepper. Drain well. Add 4 cups tomato sauce a set aside. Transfer to a large bowl and mix in the cooked ziti.
Mix together Ricotta cheese and egg until combined well. Season with ½ teaspoon of salt, pepper and chopped fresh parsley. Mix in the shredded mozzarella cheese.
Coat the bottom of a dish (or 2) with a thin layer of tomato sauce.
Add half of the cooked ziti meat mixture and spread Ricotta cheese mixture on top. (If making two dishes, divide the ingredients evenly among the two casseroles.) Add the remaining ziti and meat mixture and then arrange the mozzarella on top, with the thinly sliced tomatoes on top of the mozzarella and a handful of chopped fresh basil. You can either wrap the baking dish well in aluminum foil and freeze, or bake in an oven on 350 degrees for 30 minutes. At the very end, place casserole under the broiler for 5 minutes on high for a golden, crispy result. To cook a frozen ziti, cook it frozen, loosely covered for an hour or longer on 350 degrees.
Makes 2 Casseroles