Baked ziti is such a comfort food for me. The big round noodles that soak up all the sauce, loads of cheese, and a creamy filling. It really doesn't get much better than that, round it out with some garlic bread and some salad and you've got a great meal. A few years ago I researched some baked ziti recipes and stumbled upon one from All Recipes. This recipe called for using sour cream for the filling. Sour cream?? What the french toast?!?! Well I tried it, and it was lovely. It worked perfectly and gave the ziti a little zip, zing, tang! I have since used my own recipe for ziti, but kept the sour cream, and it is a winner every time.
Makes 12 servings
1 lb dry ziti or rigatoni
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 - 2 lbs ground beef
2 (26 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 Tbsp dried basil
1-1/2 tsp dried oregano
1-1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste
1 lb (2 bags) Italian blend or mozzarella shredded cheese
16 oz sour cream
Bring a large pot of water to boiling, add pasta, cook until al dente (8-10 min) drain and set aside. In a large skillet or pot, brown onion and ground beef over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for a few more minutes, being careful not to brown the garlic. Drain if desired. Add tomato paste and cook until well incorporated. Add crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, and Italian seasoning. Simmer over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add about 1 cup of sauce mixture to pasta and combine. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a deep 9''x13'' pan and layer as follows: 1/2 of pasta mixture, 1 bag (8 oz) cheese, sour cream, 1/2 of sauce, rest of pasta, rest of cheese, rest of sauce. Top with grated parmesan. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes or until bubbling.
A few tips:
1. Spoon your sour cream into a ziploc bag and cut the tip off the bag. Squeeze the sour cream over the cheese layer as evenly as possible. This eliminates the need to "spread" the sour cream out with a spatula.
2. For an even easier version, eliminate the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, and Italian seasoning and subsitute two jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce.
3. Spray your foil with cooking spray so the cheese doesn't stick to the foil.