Four Cheese Ziti Bake

Serves Many

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • one pound ground beef
  • one pound loose Italian sausage (remove casing from sausage links)
  • one large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4-1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • one 16 ounce package ziti
  • 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 16 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2  24-ounce jars of tomato-based pasta sauce, your favorite
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the onion and cook for three to five minutes.  Add the ground beef and sausage to the skillet.  Use a wooden spoon to break the meats into very small pieces. Cook over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  After a few minutes add the garlic and stir to distribute.  Season with salt and pepper.  Continue cooking until the meats are browned and little bits have begun to stick to the bottom of your pan. Drain.

Tip:  Drain the meat mixture by putting it in a colander set into a pie dish lined with paper towels for easy cleanup.

Cook the ziti according to the package directions but for one to two minutes less than recommended.  Save one cup of the pasta water before draining.

While the ziti is cooking, mix together the ricotta cheese, eggs, and parsley. Shred the mozzarella cheese with a box grater.

To assemble the ziti bake:  Add the hot pasta to the meat mixture, stir to combine.  Add the ricotta cheese mixture and one jar of the pasta sauce.  If needed, add a little of the reserved pasta water.

In a large baking dish, first layer half of the meat mixture, topped with half of the Parmesan cheese, half of the Romano cheese, half of the second jar of sauce and half of the shredded mozzarella cheese.  Repeat, finishing with the mozzarella cheese. 

Bake for 45 minutes in a preheated 350 degrees F oven until bubbly and hot in the center.  I like to cover my ziti bake with parchment paper and then aluminum foil to keep the cheese from browning too much. Remove the foil and parchment paper for the last 15-20 minutes of baking time. If you are baking after chilling the ziti bake in the refrigerator, let the ziti bake warm on your counter for at least thirty minutes.  You may need to extend your cooking time.
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