Three Cheese Baked Ziti
2 firm eggplants, about 1 + 1/2 pounds each
6 - 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves minced garlic
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes, (I like San Marzano)
12 ounces ziti (I like Barilla whole-grain)
1 heaping teaspoon Italian seasoning, crushed between fingertips
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
fresh black pepper
3 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups fresh shredded mozzarella cheese
butter, for greasing pan
- Trim off stems, peel the eggplant and cut into 1-inch cubes. Toss them with 1 tablespoon coarse salt in a large colander and let them drain over a bowl for 1 hour. After an hour use paper towels to dry them - blot excess water and salt off them.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease a large baking sheet and toss the eggplant with 3-4 tablespoons of oil. Spread out evenly and bake until browned, carefully tossing halfway through about 25-35 minutes.
- In a large sauce pan over medium-low heat 2 tablespoons oil; saute onion until tender and translucent add garlic and saute until fragrant. Add tomatoes, Italian seasoning, parsley and red pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook 30 minutes, stirring often and reseasoning if needed.
- In a medium bowl stir the ricotta cheese with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella and the parmesan cheese.
- Cook the ziti to a minute under al dente according to package directions in plenty of salted water. Drain and add to a large mixing bowl. Toss with sauce, eggplant and 1 cup of the ricotta cheese.
- Generously grease a 9 x 13 casserole pan. Place 1/2 of the pasta evenly over the bottom of the pan. Dollop 1/2 of the remaining ricotta cheese by the spoonfuls over top then sprinkle with half the mozzarella. Repeat: spread the rest of the pasta evenly over top, dollop with the remaining ricotta and sprinkle with mozzarella.
- Bake 30-35 minutes until hot in the middle and lightly golden on top. Let set 5 minutes before serving.
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