One-Pan Baked Ziti

It’s been over two months since my last pasta post and I can only imagine how confused and disoriented you all must be.  Or maybe I’m just projecting.  But for those of you who have been just a bit relieved that I’ve taken this break from indulging my pasta fixation (at least on the blog), you're probably running screaming from the room right about now.  But be sure and hurry back… you’re really not going to want to miss this one.

Because, while this is mostly about a totally scrumptious baked pasta dish, it’s also about simplicity, and having dinner on the table in minutes, and not ruining said dinner by having to face piles of dishes afterwards.

No boiling pasta and making sauce and baking it off in a baking dish.  I count three pans right there.  No, this one all comes together in just one pan. And if you didn't want to wash dishes, you could just take your forks right to the pan.  And if you didn't want to wash forks, well, no, just wash some forks for crying out loud.

The recipe comes to us from the good folks at Cook’s Illustrated and uncharacteristically, I didn’t change one thing.  Like, for instance, whenever a recipe calls for cream, I usually sub out milk or yogurt, but this time I had some cream in the fridge (don’t ask) and just went with it.  I highly recommend you splurge a bit and use the cream.  It gives this pasta some body and amazing flavor and besides, it’s just ½ cup.  For the whole pan.  Go for it.  

This is what I told myself as I deliberated over whether to add the cream or sub it out for a less caloric dairy product.  I never cook with cream (except for desserts where it’s absolutely necessary and no substitutions will do), and it’s probably not such a good thing that I have allowed myself to taste its lusciousness in this recipe.  It’s a slippery slope, people, but I’m promising myself that this will not get out of hand.  I will only make a cream exception for this one recipe.  Of course, I will then have to decide what to do with the rest of the carton.  Like I said, a slippery slope.  Here’s the recipe…

One-Pan Baked Ziti

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe courtesy of Cook's Illustrated

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

3 cups water

12 ounces ziti (3 3/4 cups)

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup minced fresh basil leaves

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Making the Minutes Count: Measure the water and the pasta before you begin cooking. Prep the Parmesan and basil while the pasta cooks.

1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 475 degrees. 

2.  Combine oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in 12-inch, oven-safe nonstick skillet and sauté over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add crushed tomatoes, water, ziti, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cover and cook, stirring often and adjusting heat as needed to maintain vigorous simmer, until ziti is almost tender, 15 to 18 minutes.

3. Stir in cream, Parmesan, and basil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over ziti.  Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cheese has melted and browned, about 10 minutes. Serve.

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