Ziti Bake

If your grocery store has been like mine of late, and I’m sure it has, it’s been a challenge to shop for meals. I start out with a list and end up planing meals in the store with what I can find. The one thing that I have found a good variety of, is pasta. Not sure why, but I’m thankful. Now as I type this and go back to the store this week, the pasta shelf will probably be bare. But luckily grabbed two boxes of different varieties. I had already had some ground beef in the freezer before all of this started, so I figured a Ziti bake would be a make a good dinner. It’s comforting and can easily be stretched into 2 meals for hubby and I….not to mention it’s like a warm, cheesy hug. I Hope you find it as satisfying as we did.

Here’s what you need:

*1 lb of ground beef

*1 small onion, chopped

*3 cloves of garlic

*dried fennel seed; to taste

*smoked paprika; to taste

*Hungarian half sharp paprika; to taste

*dried basil; to taste

*dried oregano; to taste

*onion powder; to taste

*garlic powder; to taste

*salt and pepper to taste

28. oz can crushed tomatoes

28. oz can diced tomatoes

*16 oz container of cottage cheese

*Parmesan cheese, grated

*egg

*nutmeg

*2 C shredded cheese of your choice; I used a blend of cheddar and Colby Jack

*1 Lb Ziti

For the Sauce:

This sauce you can make the day before, which I did to save some time on the day I was actually going to make it. But it’s perfectly fine to do it the day of.

Heat a large skillet on high heat. If you are using lean beef, add about 1 Tbs of olive oil. Add beef and cook, breaking it up as you go. Add onions and using a micro plane,grate in garlic cloves. If you prefer to use mince garlic, that’s ok as well. Continue to cook until beef is browned and onions are tender. Drain if needed.

Turn heat down to medium and add fennel, both kinds of paprika, basil, oregano, onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add both cans of tomatoes and mix well, tasting to see if you need to add any more spices or herbs. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool while making the pasta.

Boil pasta until al dente; drain and set aside.

In a bowl add cottage cheese. I prefer using cottage cheese in this and I use it in my lasagna rather than ricotta as well, but if you want to use ricotta, feel free to do so. Mix in about 1 tsp of basil, 1/4 tsp. Nutmeg, cracked pepper and 1 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese. Mix well.

Taste to see if you need to add any more herbs or cheese. Crack in egg.

Mix well; set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a deep casserole dish with non stick spray. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of dish.

Add a layer of ziti on top of the sauce.

Spread another layer of sauce on top of the noodles.

On top of the sauce, spread on the cottage cheese.

And next comes the cheese…. make it rain cheese on top of the cottage cheese.

Add another layer of ziti on top of the cheese.

Last layer…. pour more sauce on top of the ziti.

I’m sure you can tell by the picture that I did not use a deep enough dish for this. Yes, I was crossing my fingers that this would not spill out every where while cooking.

Lastly, add more cheese on top.

Cover dish…. and here is a tip- if you are using foil, spray the side of the foil that will cover the cheese with no stick spray. Cook for 35 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for 10 minutes or until cheese has melted and sauce is bubbly.

Serve with some crusty bread and enjoy! On a side note, I’m happy to say the sauce stayed inside of the dish. Yay me!