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Playing How To Make Baked Ziti With Meatballs By Rachael

Rach's twist on baked ziti with meatballs "Ziti-zagna" is comfort food in a casserole dish.

Ingredients
For the tomato basil sauce:
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • Two 28-ounce cans DOP San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 jar passata or 3 cups tomato puree, 24 ounces
  • 10-12 leaves fresh basil, torn
  • Salt
For the meatballs:
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 cup homemade or storebought breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ½ cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
For the baked ziti:
  • 1 ½-2 pounds ziti rigati
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella or mozzarella/provolone mix
  • 2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 28 ounces ricotta cheese
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish
  • 4-6 large leaves basil, for garnish
Yield
Serves: 6 to 8
Preparation

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

For the tomato basil sauce, heat a pot over medium heat with EVOO, melt butter into oil and when it foams, add garlic and stir a minute or 2. Add tomatoes and break them up a bit, add passata and stir, then bring the sauce to a bubble. Stir in the basil and season with salt. Reduce to a simmer and cook sauce for 20 to 30 minutes. Turn off and reserve. 

For the meatballs, place meats in a bowl and season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds and oregano. Add breadcrumbs and moisten them with milk. Add eggs, cheese, parsley and EVOO. Divide the meat mixture into 8 equal portions and roll into balls. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and partially cook the meatballs in oven 15 to 18 minutes until light golden brown but not firm.

Boil ziti 2 to 3 minutes shy of al dente. Drain and run under cold water to cool the pasta. Allow to drain again.

Break the meatballs into small pieces and mix with half the sauce, half the shredded cheese, half the parmesan, all the pasta and all the ricotta. Place in a deep 9x13-inch casserole dish and top with remaining sauce, shredded cheese and parmesan. Bake for 45 minutes covered, then another 15 to 20 minutes uncovered, until bubbly and brown. Top with parsley and basil for garnish.