Baked Ziti with Bechamel Sauce
Here’s the thing. I almost decided not to share this recipe with you, because let’s face it: I’m not Italian. I was born in the middle of a corn field, y’all. Do they even have corn in Italy? Probably not.
Then I realized that, while this may not be an authentic recipe, it is amazingly delicious anyway. It’d be mean of me not to share. I’m not a mean person. I’m actually somewhat nice. Usually. I mean, you totally don’t want to get on my bad side or anything, but otherwise, yeah. Super nice.
So, as a nice person I decided to share this with you. Just don’t be mad that it’s full of bad things like cheese, cheese, cheese, heavy cream, pasta, and uh…cheese. Oh, and bechamel sauce, which, before you get all scared and write this recipe off as too difficult, is more or less just a fancy term for gravy. We just call it bechamel to sound cool. Oh, and because if this blog post was titled Baked Ziti with Gravy you’d be super freaked out. (If you want to get all technical the two sauces really are different, but uh, not by much. Gravy uses meat drippings and bechamel doesn’t. Whatever. It’s still gravy, in my opinion.)
So, there you have it. Creamy, decadent, and a bit over the top baked ziti made my way. Probably not the way they make it in Italy, but fabulous all the same. And, for the love of Bieber, do not skip the bechamel. It is the most important, most delicious, most creamy element in this dish.
Baked Ziti with Bechamel Sauce
1 pound ziti
1 pound ground beef (use Italian sausage if you feel fancy)
1 jar pasta sauce (or homemade)
15 ounces Ricotta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, divided
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (the powdery kind will work if you must use it)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream (all milk will work if you don't have cream)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 ounces mozzarella, thinly sliced
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add plenty of salt. Boil the pasta for 3 minutes less than the package directs.
In a large sauce pan brown the ground beef. Drain the fat. Stir in the spaghetti sauce.
In a small pot melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook until hot and bubbly. Whisk in the milk and cream and cook 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened to a gravy consistency. Stir in the pepper and nutmeg.
In a medium bowl mix together the ricotta, egg, 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and the Parmesan cheese.
Spread 1/4 cup of the meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.
Pour in half of the ziti and spread it out. Pour on half of the meat sauce and spread it over the ziti. Pour on half of the bechamel sauce.
Drop dollops of the ricotta mixture over the meat sauce and then sprinkle with half of the mozzarella.
Repeat the layers of ziti and meat sauce. Pour the remaining bechamel evenly over the top. Place the remaining cheese on top and sprinkle with the 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning.
Bake covered for 30 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.
Remove the cover and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.