Food & Wine

CASSEROLE WEEK: BEST-EVER BAKED ZITI

The casserole is the classic one-dish family dinner. For those getting tired of tuna noodle, we offer a week's worth of new casserole ideas. This one comes from the brand-new cookbook put out by Cook's Country Magazine called "Best Potluck Recipes."

INGREDIENTS

1 lb. cottage cheese (whole milk or 1 percent)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

Salt

1 lb. ziti

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 can (28 oz.) tomato sauce

1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 teaspoon sugar

Pepper

1 cup heavy cream

3/4 teaspoon cornstarch

8 oz. whole milk mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

DIRECTIONS

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the cottage cheese, eggs and 1 cup of the Parmesan together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a Dutch oven. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta and cook, stirring often, until nearly tender. Drain the pasta and leave in the colander (do not wash the Dutch oven.)

Meanwhile, heat the oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and oregano and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup of the basil and the sugar, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Stir the cream and cornstarch together in a small bowl; transfer the mixture to the now-empty Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Off the heat, add the cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup of the tomato sauce and half the mozzarella, then stir to combine. Add the pasta and stir to coat thoroughly. Transfer the pasta mixture to a 13x9-inch baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan evenly over the top of the dish.

Lightly spray a large sheet of foil with vegetable oil spray and cover the baking dish tightly. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 10 minutes before sprinkling with the remaining 2 tablespoons basil.

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