This is not baked ziti. First of all, I couldn’t find gluten free ziti. Secondly, my Italian American friends have scoffed at both my use of Ragu and addition of not only red peppers but ground turkey (“Is it supposed to be chili?”) But it’s super yummy and we’ll have food for days – $20 total for easily 10 servings (or less if you are a glutton like yours truly).
1 box Ziti Rigati (or GF rotini in this case)
1lb ground turkey (I’m sure beef would be fine if you preferred)
15oz ricotta cheese
1 large ball of fresh mozzarella, shredded
1 14.5oz can of stewed peeled tomatoes (diced)
1 14oz jar of pasta sauce (I used Ragu, I was admonished)
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 tbsp. fresh chopped basil
1 medium onion (diced)
1 medium red bell pepper (diced)
grated parmesan cheese
1 whole clove of garlic (diced)
ground black pepper
“Italian” flavor breadcrumbs*
One large aluminum tray (just easier that way)
Preheat the oven to 350.
Start boiling the water for the pasta – I like to add some olive oil for flavor, and because it helps with the texture of the GF pasta. I didn’t add salt because I felt there was enough coming from the other ingredients but that’s up to you.
Sauce: I put the turkey in the pan first and used what little fat came off it to cook the onions. Then added the garlic and finally the red pepper cooking it until the turkey was no longer pink, breaking it up as you go. Add in the entire jar of pasta sauce, tomato sauce and stewed tomatoes. Turn the flame down to medium, add pepper to taste, continue to simmer on low heat.
The water should be at a good boil by now so add in the pasta. The box I used told me to cook it for eight minutes to get to al-dente, so I went with seven as the pasta will continue to cook when it is in the oven. And no one likes soggy noodles.
Now we put it all together in the aluminum tray.
Strain the pasta and put it into the tray. Add the finished sauce. Add the basil to the ricotta in a bowl, mix well and stir the ricotta mixture in to the pasta and sauce. I don’t like to mix it too much – I want to be able to taste each thing on its own every few bites. My husband would mix it until there was no differentiating one ingredient from the other – again, to each their own.
Stir in most of the mozzarella and spread out the pasta/sauce/cheese mix evenly in the tray. Add the remaining mozzarella over the top, then add the parmesan on top of the mozzarella and then the breadcrumbs. Again, this is to taste. These three (mozzarella, parmesan and breadcrumbs) will add a nice crunch to the top of your dish.
Cover the whole pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes removing the foil at the 30 minute mark to help the mozzarella/parmesan/breadcrumbs make a nice crust.
*If you’re wondering about the GF pasta plus breadcrumbs combination – sometimes I am not so smart. The GF pasta is for J who we keep gluten free but I somehow forgot all about that and then covered everything with breadcrumbs. I paid the price that night when she was bouncing around the house like a pingpong ball.