Baked ziti with meatballs

  • 55g plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 75g grated Romano
  • 25g chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 450g beef mince
  • Plain flour, for dredging
  • 450g ziti
  • 5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1.25L tomato sauce
  • 300g whole milk ricotta
  • 200g shredded mozzarella
  • 50g grated Parmesan
  • 55g unsalted butter, cut into 1cm pieces
1) Preheat oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

2) In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, eggs, milk, 50g of the Romano and the parsley, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Add beef and gently combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Shape into bite-size meatballs. Roll each meatball in flour to coat, shaking off excess.

2) In a large pot, bring 7L of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander and set aside. If not using immediately, cover top with plastic wrap so that pasta does not dry out. Do not rinse pasta with water since you want to retain the pasta's natural starches so that the sauce will cling to the ziti.

3) In a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat. When almost smoking, add meatballs in batches and without moving or turning the meat, allow it to brown for about three minutes. Turn meatballs and brown other side. Continue to cook until all sides are golden brown. Remove meatballs to a plate.

4) In a large bowl, combine the tomato sauce and ricotta and mix well. Add the cooked ziti and meatballs and toss gently.

5) In a large greased baking dish, pour in pasta mixture. Sprinkle the mozzarella, Parmesan, and remaining Romano all over the top. Dot with the butter. Place baking dish on top of baking sheet covered with aluminum foil to collect any drippings from the dish. Bake until top is golden brown and bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.

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