My friend, Brynn, made this super yummy baked ziti at playgroup last week and I've been craving it all week! I made it for dinner tonight and it was a hit! I have to warn you, it is a bit labor intensive in the preparation, but don't let that scare you off! It's definitely worth it! It also makes a lot, so you could even divide in half and prepare one and freeze the other - maybe without the mozzarella cheese, adding that when you're ready to cook it. (not sure, not too familiar with the rules of freezing...) Another good thing about this meal is that you don't really need a lot of sides - just salad and garlic bread complete it! While it was cooking, I washed all the prep dishes so that eliminated the after dinner clean up. Are you convinced? Oh, and it's a great meal to take when you're bringing a meal to a friend! Let me know what you think!!!
1/2 medium onion, chopped (optional)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
1 (26 oz.) jar tomato and basil pasta sauce (I used Prego Tomato Basil Garlic sauce)
3/4 tsp salt, divided
1 (16 oz) ziti pasta - (penne - I like the Barilla Plus)
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 (8 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Cook pasta according to directions. While waiting for the water to boil, begin step 2. Drain pasta and return to pan.
2. Saute chopped onion in hot oil over medium high heat in large skillet for about 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add beef and cook until no longer pink. Drain. Stir in pasta sauce and 1/2 tsp. salt. Set aside.
3. Melt butter in heavy saucepan over low heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly (take about 7-10 minutes). Stir in parmesan cheese, remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, and pepper. Pour sauce over pasta, stirring until pasta is evenly coated.
4. Transfer pasta mixture to a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Top evenly with beef mixture; sprinkle evenly with mozzarella cheese.
5. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.