Monday, February 16, 2009

Rachael Rays' Fake-Baked Ziti

* 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 3 turns of the pan
* 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
* 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes (recommended: San Marzano)
* 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, (recommended: San Marzano)* If San Marzanos are not available, add a teaspoon sugar to your sauce, optional
* Coarse salt
* A handful fresh basil leaves, torn
* 1 pound ziti rigate, with ridges
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* Freshly ground black pepper
* A generous grating nutmeg
* 2 cups whole milk
* 1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese
* 1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
* 1 cup sliced fresh mozzarella
* Crusty bread, to pass at table


Put pasta water on to boil.

In a medium sauce pot over medium heat, saute garlic in extra-virgin olive oil. Chop whole tomatoes and add them to the pan. Add crushed tomatoes and salt and simmer 10 minutes, add basil and simmer over low heat 10 minutes more.

Add salt and pasta to boiling water and cook 6 minutes, leaving pasta a little chewy.

While pasta cooks, melt butter in a small pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour, then cook 1 minute, adding salt and pepper and nutmeg to flour. Add milk and bring sauce to a bubble. Reduce 5 minutes.

Drain pasta and transfer to a large casserole dish. Pour the tomato and basil sauce over the pasta and turn to coat the pasta. Pour the bechamel over the already coated pasta. Cover the top of the pasta with Asiago, Parmesan and mozzarella. Place the casserole under hot broiler and melt the 3 cheeses until brown and bubbly, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately with Spinach and Artichoke Salad and bread.

Word to the Wise:
This recipe is really good and simple but sometimes to simplify things even more, I will use a store bought Spaghetti sauce instead of making one. I usaully skip all the fancy cheese like fresh mozzarella and asiago and just use shredded mozzarella. I have also been known to add meat to the sauce like ground turkey, Italian sausage or hamburger.

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