Baked Ziti With Ricotta and Mozzarella recipe uses whole-milk, “regular” mozzarella and fresh mozzarella. The main difference between the two is the moisture content. I love how fresh mozzarella melts and browns on top, but it would make the sauce slightly too watery if I used it mixed in with the ziti.
I don’t have anything against ricotta. But when I was growing up, I ate BAD ricotta: soupy, grainy ricotta that tasted like salty water. So I wanted a baked ziti with no ricotta. I wanted one baked with loads of mozzarella and topped with even more mozzarella, because it’s hard (impossible?) to have too much mozzarella. So I made one, and served it to lots of people who didn’t miss the ricotta at all.
Ingredients for 4 TO 6 serves
- 1 medium white onion, quartered
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes, with juices
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons salted butter, diced
- 1 pound ziti
- 8 ounces whole-milk mozzarella, diced
- 2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano
- 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil, divided
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- PASTA SHAPES: rigatoni, penne, strozzapreti
How to Make Baked Ziti With Ricotta and Mozzarella
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Grease the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch lasagne pan with butter or cooking spray. Combine the onions, garlic, and tomatoes with juices in the pan. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper, and dot the butter on top. Cook for 35 minutes, until caramelized.
- While the sauce is cooking, fill a 6-quart pot with water, bring it to a boil, and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Parboil the ziti by cooking it for 1 minute less than half of what it says on the package (for example, if it says to cook for 12 to 14 minutes, then cook for 5 minutes), and drain.
- Remove the sauce from the oven; pour it into a blender or food processor, and purée until smooth.
- Transfer the sauce and the ziti to a large mixing bowl and add the diced mozzarella, pecorino, and half of the basil. Toss to combine, and taste for salt, adding more if needed. Pour the pasta into the lasagna pan. Top with the fresh mozzarella, sprinkle with the panko, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes, and then turn on the broiler. Place dish about 4 inches from the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes, until the top begins to brown. Sprinkle the remaining basil over the pasta before serving.
Baked Ziti With Ricotta and Mozzarella is ready to be served SERVE WITH: dried red chili flakes, grated Pecorino Romano.