I have a confession to make. And it's a pretty major fat kid one. Baked ziti was one of my favorite late night go-to dishes in college (read: drunk food). Actually, it was baked ziti pasta pizza (let's say I was a little heftier back then). I loved picking off the pieces that had a crisp, golden crust and looked at it as two meals in one, both pasta and pizza (not really a good thing on a semi-frequent basis, I've come to realize).
This version is an ode to my favorite late-night meal with a slightly healthier twist. No pizza crust. The pasta tubes on the edge of the pan still get the crispiness but it's brightened with a sprinkling of fresh basil that adds a little green to the dish. I actually ended up using penne for this photograph because my grocery store ran out of ziti, but you can make it with either and it will do just as well.
Feel free to up the parmesan amount to a full cup if you want a creamier dish or even stir in some heavy cream or ricotta before putting it in the oven. Adding some sausage to the recipe could also be another delicious twist to try if you're feeling adventurous.
- Yield:Serves 3 to 4
- Active time: 25 minutes
- Total time:45 minutes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced or grated with a microplane (about 1 tablepoon)
- 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ cup homemade or store-bought low sodium chicken broth
- 3 cups uncooked penne or ziti
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- ½ cup picked fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
Adjust oven rack to center position and treheat the oven to 400°F.
Heat the oil in an oven-safe 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant but not browned, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and a pinch salt and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, breaking up the tomatoes with a potato masher as they soften until the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. Add broth and bring to a gentle simmer.
Add the pasta and cover. Raise the heat to medium, making sure there are active and vigorous bubbles. cook, stirring occasionally to make sure the pasta isn’t sticking and cook until the pasta is just firm, following package directions for timing (12 to 15 minutes).
Remove lid, season to taste with salt and pepper, stir in the parmesan, and spread the mozzarella on top (a few stray chunks of mozzarella never hurt). Transfer to oven and bake until cheese has melted and is starting to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Top with basil and serve.