The Only Baked Ziti Recipe You'll Ever Need

That's right. This is hands-down the best recipe I've come across for baked ziti. I made it this past week since it seemed like such a nice complement to the rainy weather we've been having, and it lasted us two dinners and two lunches, which is great for your grocery budget.

It comes from the wonderful people at Cook's Illustrated, who test and test each recipe until they get it perfect, saving us the hassle. :) And what caught my eye about this version was the use of cottage cheese instead of ricotta. What? But it works, and it's delicious.

Baked Ziti


1 pound whole milk or 1% cottage cheese (see note)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 pound ziti or other short, tubular pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream (see note)
8 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)(see note)


1. 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 large Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook, stirring often, until the pasta is just shy of al dente, 5 to 7 minutes.

Drain the pasta and leave it in the colander (do not wash the pot).

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil and garlic in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until the garlic is 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.

3. Stir the cornstarch into the cream in a small bowl; transfer the mixture to the now-empty pot set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add the cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup of the tomato sauce, and 3/4 cup of the mozzarella, then stir to combine.

Add the pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.

4. Transfer the pasta mixture to a 9- by 13-inch baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the pasta. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella and the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan over the top.

Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake foe 30 minutes.

5. Remove the foil and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Let cool for 20 minutes.

Be sure to take a picture before your husband sneaks a bite...
Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.

*Notes: The test kitchen prefers heavy cream, but whole milk can be substituted by increasing the cornstarch to 2 teaspoons and increasing the cooking time in step 3 by 1 to 2 minutes. Either whole-milk or part-skim mozzarella can be used, but avoid preshredded cheese, as it does not melt well. Do not use nonfat cottage cheese; it will break when baked.

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