My children happen to be picky eaters (not fun for me!) and there are very few things they all like. So when I need a no fuss, no meltdown night, our meal usually includes some sort of pasta. My children love spaghetti and anything even remotely close to it, so this recipe is always a hit.
The best part? Adults love it too!
This can be prepared early in the day for less stress later, and freezes beautifully.
Not a meat eater? This recipe easily adapts to vegetarian and tastes great even without the meat.
I am sure this will become a family favorite in your home too. And then, you will thank me for that very rare, meltdown free dinner time with your family.
1 lb. ground beef, ground turkey, or Italian sausage – (sometimes I use a combination of beef and sausage) – omit if making the vegetarian version
1 medium onion, chopped, only if using meat version
1 pound part skim ricotta or1% cottage cheese, small curd
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces grated parmesan cheese, 1 1/2 cups
1 pound ziti or similar pasta like penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves, finely minced, about 5 teaspoons
1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon honey (or sugar)
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream or whole milk ( if using whole milk instead of cream increase cornstarch to 2 teaspoons and the cooking time by 1-2 minutes)
8-12 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
1. Place oven rack in the middle of oven at 350 degrees. If using ground beef or turkey cook in skillet with the chopped onion and 1/2 tsp salt. Set aside.
2. Whisk ricotta or cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup of parmesan cheese together and set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large pot. Stir in 2 teaspoons salt and pasta; stir occasionally and cook until pasta begins to soften but not cooked all the way through, approx. 7 minutes. Drain pasta and leave in colander. The pasta will finish cooking in the oven. Set pot aside to use later.
3. While pasta is cooking, heat oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat until garlic is fragrant but not browned, approx. 2 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomoatoes, honey, basil and oregano. Simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes, Take off heat and salt and pepper to taste.
4. Mix cornstarch into heavy cream and transfer to the empty pot the pasta cooked in. Set the pot over medium heat, bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, approx. 3-4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup of the simmered tomato sauce, and half the mozzarella cheese, then stir to combine. (If using meat add at this time) Add pasta and stir until pasta is thoroughly coated.
5. To transfer mixture to a 9×13 inch baking dish pour half the mixture in dish and half the remaining tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, then repeat. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese over the top. Cover the dish with foil that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes.
6. Remove foil and continue cooking until cheese is browning and bubbling. Approx. 30 minutes more. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.
*This can also be divided into two 8X8 baking dishes. I like to do this and freeze one to either have another time or to bring to another family*