Don't you love it when you find a recipe that elicits only positive responses, from the entire family, every time you make it? I have one of those! (I also have plenty of others that get raves from half the family and complaints from the other half). It's great whenever I plan to make this for dinner, and as the kids start asking me, "What's for dinner?" to hear "YES!" and "My favorite!" and "Thank you MOM!" when I say "Skillet Baked Ziti." The pic above actually shows it made with radiatore. This recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen, with a couple of minor adaptations from me. It's easy, it's fast, you make it in one pan and it tastes delicious. What's not to love?
America's Test Kitchen Skillet Baked Ziti (or penne, rigatoni, rotini, etc.)
(with my adaptations in parentheses)
1 T. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced (I make sure they are large)
1/4 t. red pepper flakes (optional)
salt & pepper
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I use 2 14 oz. cans of tomato sauce if I don't have crushed tomatoes)
3 c. water (I use 4 because I use more pasta)
12 oz. ziti pasta or 3 3/4 cups (16 oz. bag)
1/2 c. heavy cream (2/3 c. fat free half & half)
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c. fresh basil leaves, minced (2 t. dried basil)
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 475. (I've discovered that 450 works just as well)
- Combine oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and 1/2 t. salt in a 12-inch oven safe nonstick skillet and saute over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. (If your skillet is not oven safe, transfer the pasta mixture into a shallow 2 qt. casserole dish before sprinkling with cheese and baking).
- Add crushed tomatoes (or sauce), water, ziti and another 1/2 t. of salt. (If using dried basil, I add it now).
- Cover and cook, stirring often, and keeping the temperature high enough to keep a vigorous simmer, until ziti is almost tender, about 15-18 minutes.
- Stir in cream (or half & half), parmesan, and fresh basil (if using). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over ziti. Transfer skillet to preheated oven and bake until cheese melts and browns, about 10 minutes. Serve.