Thursday, October 3, 2013

Skillet Baked Ziti



There are two styles of food that I can always eat....It doesn't matter if I have just had it, I will eat either over and over again. They are: Mexican and Italian.

Pizza, pasta and cheese dip are most certainly my weakness!

I don't typically eat leftovers, unless they fall into these two cuisines...then I will fight you to the death for that Styrofoam box!  When I was having a few friends over for dinner recently we went through the typical protocol where I pick out a few recipes, send them out and get everyone's choices to determine what we are going to have.

Of course, this means I get the first round of ideas, so basically it is a matter of determining whether it is going to be either Mexican or Italian.

I was feeling a little sassy on this particular day, with a little Sophia Loren in my step, so I was naturally drawn to the Italian!

What I loved most about this recipe, aside from the delicious outcome, was the fact that it didn't break the budget to feed 4 people, in fact I think the entire meal cost me no more than $15....that is a win/win for me!

Skillet Baked Ziti

6 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (I like Hunts)
3 cups water
12 ounces ziti pasta (3¾ cups)
1 tablespoons Italian Seasoning
4 ounces (1/2 cup) whole-milk ricotta
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 475 degrees.
Combine 1 tablespoon 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, Italian Seasoning, 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, 15-18 minutes. Make sure you don't cook it too much. It will continue to cook in the oven.
   
Meanwhile, combine ricotta, remaining 1 teaspoon oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Set aside.
Stir in cream, Parmesan, and basil into the skillet and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  
At this point if your skillet is not ovensafe, transfer the pasta mixture into a shallow 2-quart casserole dish before sprinkling with the ricotta and cheese and baking. If you're really against turning on the oven you could cover the skillet with a lid and melt the cheese that way but it won't get browned and toasty.
Add dollops of the ricotta mixture with a spoon and sprinkle mozzarella evenly over ziti.
 
Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cheese has melted and browned, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of basil. Serve.
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