Family Meals Month Meal Suggestion: Pair this cheesy baked ziti with a mixed green salad with Italian dressing and garlic bread for a well-rounded meal.
An easy, cheesy, weeknight pasta meal that can be assembled ahead of time. Use your favorite bottled Italian dressing or make a vinaigrette with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and Italian seasoning and toss with salad greens. Warm a loaf of fresh garlic bread that you picked up in your IGA grocer’s bakery.
3 cups dry ziti, about 8 ounces salt 1 cup whole milk 1 teaspoon cornstarch 1 tablespoon olive oil 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 pound ground beef 2 cups whole milk mozzarella cheese, grated and divided 1 cup Parmesan grated cheese, grated and divided ¾ cup whole milk ricotta cheese 2 jars (24-ounces each) marinara or pasta sauce, divided ¼ cup Italian breadcrumbs or panko
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large stock pot, bring water to boil and add ziti and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook for 5 minutes, when ziti just begins to soften. Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water. Return to pot and set aside.
In a small bowl whisk whole milk with 1 teaspoon cornstarch, set aside.
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, sauté garlic for 30 seconds, add ground beef, breaking up. When browned, remove beef and drain on a paper towel.
Reduce heat to medium. Add milk mixture to the skillet, scrapping up browned bits. When milk just begins to thicken—about 3 minutes—turn off heat and add 1 cup mozzarella cheese and ½ cup Parmesan cheese, stirring to melt. When melted, stir in ricotta cheese (mixture will be thick). Add marinara sauce, reserving one cup for topping.
Stir ziti to break up, adding a small amount of pasta water if needed. Fold in cheese mixture and ground beef until just blended. Place in a 9" x 13" baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Spread remaining marinara over the top. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella and ½ cup Parmesan and Italian bread crumbs.
Cover with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
Place on a heavy cooking sheet and cook for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue cooking for another 15 to 20 minutes until pasta is bubbly and cheese has begun to brown. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
If assembled ahead of time, keep refrigerated. You may need to add additional cooking time.