Pasta makes me happy . There is a real comforting sound of cheese and sauce bubbling away in the oven that keeps me salivating for dinner time . My mum made the best baked ziti , simple , straight forward cheesey baked goodness . she , ofcourse , made her own simple marinara sauce , but store bought is fine too . She also used the best freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese and thinly sliced Fontina , it has a superior melting texture and , naturally what is a baked ziti withour Rikotta , the fresher the better . To freshen up the dish she added freshly torn basil leaves to the dish just before assembly , that kept the flavor of the herb fresh all through .
Serves 4 to 6
Photograph by Rahul Mahtani
1 lb cooked ziti or penne ( cook for half the reccomended time and set aside).
4 cups home made or store bought marinara sauce
1 lb fresh rikotta cheese
1 cup freshly sliced Fontina cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
15 to 20 fresh basil leaves roughly torn
pinch red pepper flakes , ( optional )
Preheat oven to 350*F . Set aside a 13 by 11 baking dish.
Toss the cooked pasta with 1 cup of sauce . Stir in red pepper flakes ( optional ) and fresh basil. Set aside.
Pour in 1 cup of sauce in the base of the baking dish , spread it out to cover the entire base of the dish . Pour in and spread the sauced pasta .
Top the pasta with spoonfuls of rikotta , make sure to cover the pasta evenly , top with more basil .
Top the pasta and basil with 1 cup of marinara sauce , spread it to cover the pasta well . Sprinkle on 1/2 the Parmigiano cheese and half the fontina cheese .Cover with the final cup of sauce and the rest of the cheese . This may seem excessive sauce but , during baking , as the pasta continues to cook , the dish will dry as it cooks without adequate liquid .
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes , until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned . Serve