The Foolproof Pasta Dish That Always Impresses Guests

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The Kitchy Kitchen

The Kitchy Kitchen is the brainchild of food enthusiast and self-taught chef Claire Thomas. With a focus on new spins on classic meals, the site provides unfussy recipes. Thomas has amassed notoriety in the culinary world, as host of Food for Thought With Claire Thomas on ABC and author of The Kitchy Kitchen: New Classics for Living Deliciously. Here, Thomas will be providing original recipes every month for MyDomaine readers to experience their own Kitchy Kitchen at home.

My best reference for baked ziti is from The Sopranos. It became a cornerstone for the main character when his wife suddenly passed away, and a freezer of her ziti was all that was left behind.

Baked ziti is like lasagna, but it's even easier. It's shareable, freezable, and deeply comforting, like most casseroles. This version is a beautiful, creamy blend of spicy tomato sauce and lightly seasoned béchamel with mozzarella, which means it's infinitely likable. My favorite is the crispy pieces on top—I have to try to not pick all them off one by one before serving this. Keep reading to learn how to make this simple baked ziti recipe that's done in 30 minutes.

Baked Ziti

Ingredients:

1 lb. ziti (or any short, dry pasta)

3 cups spicy tomato cream sauce

3 cups white sauce

8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced 1/4 inch thick

Parmesan, to finish

Finely chopped basil

Directions:

Cook ziti al dente per manufacturer's recommendation in heavily salted boiling water. Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Layer as follows: 1/2 of the ziti, mozzarella cheese, white sauce, spicy tomato cream sauce, and then repeat with the remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese, and remaining sauces. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.


Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheeses are melted, and the top is a bubbly golden brown. Garnish with basil.

White Sauce

Ingredients:

3 cups milk

2 sprigs of parsley

5 peppercorns

1/2 small onion, sliced

1/4 tsp. chili flake

1 bay leaf

3 tbsp. butter

1/4 cup flour

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

Bring the milk and everything else except for the butter, flour, and parmigiano to a simmer.

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter, and add the flour. Stir until doughy (about one minute). Strain in the milk, about a half-cup at a time, whisking to incorporate it into the butter and flour mix. It should be smooth and velvety, not chunky or too thick. If it is, add more milk to thin it out. Add the Parmesan and set aside.

Spicy Tomato Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

4 tbsp. olive oil

1 cup diced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. crushed chili flake

1 tsp. paprika

2 (14.5 ounce) cans Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

4 tbsp. heavy cream

4 tbsp. butter

Directions:

In a saucepan, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat. Add the crushed chili flake and paprika. Make sure it doesn't burn. Add tomatoes, basil, sugar, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, and continue to boil for five minutes or until most of the liquid evaporates. Remove from heat; stir in cream and butter. Reduce heat and simmer five more minutes. Set aside.

Get Ready to Cook

Before you begin your next dish, see which pasta brands professional chefs buy.

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