cook it: baked ziti

Elliot: Mom, what's for dinner?
Me: Baked Ziti
Elliot: What's Ziti?
Me: uhm...it's like spaghetti's more sophisticated older cousin
Elliot:  [blank stare]

     Did you parents ever describe food as a "cousin" to another food?  I can vividly remember my parents describing lasagna as a "cousin" to spaghetti.  As in, "eat the lasagna Blair, it's just like spaghetti's cousin and you love spaghetti so eat.it.already." 

     This is another one of our "use what you got" type recipes.  I wanted ziti, but the penne noodles were on sale.  And half our ingredients are from Aldi, which you know is a plus for me!  These humble ingredients transform into a hearty dish everyone in your family will love.  

1 lb ziti or similar pasta (penne is a bit easier for our toddlers to wrangle)
15 oz ricotta
1.5 c mozzarella
0.5c grated parmesan ("sprinkle cheese")
1 egg
2 jars marinara sauce

1) cook noodles to al dente---you don't want them to be too cooked because they will get soggy when added to dish later
2) while noodles are cooking mix together ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, parmesan and egg.  be careful not to over mix, it's fine if there's a few clumps
3) drain noodels and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process
4) add rinsed noodles to the cheese mixture
5) layer 1-1.5 cups of marinara sauce on the bottom of 9x13 dish.  layer noodle cheese mixture, then marinara, again with noodle mixture, top again with marinara and remaining mozzarella   (it's kinda like a lasagna with all the layering)
6) bake in 350degree oven for 45 minutes

-this makes a pretty full 9x13 pan, so we actually assemble in two 8x8 pans at our house.  we bake for 35-40 min
-you want to make sure you fully cover top layer of noodles or they will get a bit crispy in the baking process

*sidenote* i have no "after" picture of this meal because we ate it so fast.  so, just picture a beautifully prepared ziti masterpiece right about.....here.   ;)

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