There have been a few times in my life when I had the pleasure of brightening the day of family and friends by delivering a delicious homemade meal to them. Whether they were recovering from surgery or nursing a newborn, this easy recipe offers a bit of comfort (and carbs!) for those who may not have the time or energy to cook up a meal. Send this dish over with a bagged salad mix and some garlic bread — it makes for a convenient dinnertime for your loved ones.
Speedy Baked Ziti
1 pound ziti
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound lean ground sirloin
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
24-ounce jar marinara sauce (3 cups)
1 ½ cups fresh ricotta (about 12 ounces)
½ pound shredded mozzarella
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the ziti until just al dente. Drain and return to the pot.
Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the onion and garlic, cover and cook until just softened, about 2 minutes. Add the sirloin, crushed red pepper and paprika; season with salt. Cook over high heat, stirring to break up the meat, until the meat is no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Add the marinara and bring to a boil. Cover partially and cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes.
Add the sauce to the ziti in the pot and stir to coat it thoroughly. Add the ricotta in large dollops and stir gently, leaving it in large clumps. Pour half of the ziti mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and top with half of the mozzarella and Parm. Repeat with the remaining ziti and cheeses.
Bake the ziti on the top rack of the oven for about 15 minutes, until it is bubbling and browned. Let the ziti rest for 10 minutes before serving.