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Baked Ziti

Serves 6-8

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INGREDIENTS
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage with fennel, homemade* or store-bought
  • 1 pound 80% lean ground beef
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
  • 1 onion, finely chopped 
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 1/3 palmful
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, lightly crushed in palm
  • 1 cup beef or veal stock 
  • 2 28- to 32-ounce cans Italian tomatoes 
  • 3 to 4 cups passata, tomato purée or tomato sauce 
  • A few leaves of basil, torn 
  • 1 pound ziti rigate or any short cut pasta with lines 
  • 2 cups fresh ricotta cheese 
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided 
  • A few grates of nutmeg 
  • 1 large egg, beaten 
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella or Fior di Latte, grated on large side of box grater (Tip: if the mozzarella is wet or packed in water, pat the mozzarella dry and wrap in a paper towel overnight to firm it up for grating)
  • A small handful Italian parsley, finely chopped  
  • * To make your own sausage, you’ll need:
  • 1 pound ground pork 
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon, 6 to 7 leaves, fresh sage, very thinly sliced or chopped 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped 
  • About 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, 1/3 palmful
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated 
PREPARATION

If making your own sausage, combine meat with wine and seasonings and chill several hours or overnight before using for flavors to combine.

For the ziti, heat olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage, begin to brown and crumble, then add ground meat and brown and crumble. Add garlic and onions, red pepper, salt, pepper and oregano, and cook to soften onions, 5-6 minutes. Add stock, tomatoes and passata or purée; break up tomatoes and bring to a bubble. Reduce heat to a low simmer, add a few leaves of basil and simmer 30 minutes.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt and undercook pasta about 5-6 minutes, just shy of al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of starchy cooking liquid. 
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Combine ricotta with half a cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and season with nutmeg. Add egg and combine. Add pasta, starchy cooking liquid and half the sauce; stir.  Transfer pasta to large casserole and top with remaining sauce. Cover the casserole with mozzarella and remaining Parmigiano cheese. Top with parsley and bake 25-30 minutes until brown and bubbly on top.

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