I started making this Baked Ziti when Bob and I were on a Sopranos kick many, many years ago. We had rented the last season from mail-order Netflix and watched multiple episodes a night. It was the influence of the Sopranos that led Bob to start referring to this recipe as "Meghan's Effing Ziti." Anyone who has seen this show will understand why. This makes a big pan of ziti - enough for the two of us for dinner and leftovers for lunch the rest of the week, so I like to make it on Sundays or Mondays. It's a great "Meatless Monday" meal!
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and ground black pepper
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
3 cups water
12 ounces ziti (3 3/4 cups)
1/2 cup heavy cream (I usually use milk or fat-free half-and-half)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh basil (or 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon dried)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475F.
2. Combine oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in 12-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet and saute 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. (At this point, I transfer the pasta to a 13x9-inch Pyrex dish). Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over pan. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cheese has melted and browned, about 10 minutes. Serve.
Source: Adapted from The Best 30 Minute Recipe cookbook