This rich casserole has the flavors of lasagna without the work. It's perfect for a Sunday dinner.
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, ground in a food processor or blender
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley or basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and ground black pepper
2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, cubed
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 pound ziti pasta
1. Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and saute over medium heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste, and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Set the sauce aside.
2. Combine the ricotta, mozzarella, 1/2 cup Parmesan, parsley, salt, and eggs in a large bowl and set this mixture aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the salt to taste and the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Toss the pasta with a little sauce.
4. Place a layer of sauced pasta in a large casserole dish. Dot the pasta with small bits of the cheese mixture and then spoon some tomato sauce over the cheese. Repeat this process two more times to make 3 layers of pasta, cheese, and sauce. Sprinkle the top of the casserole with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
5. Bake until the top is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Let the pasta casserole rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Minnie's Secret: If possible, use a thick homemade ricotta that you can buy at an Italian market. Supermarket ricotta is not nearly as creamy and tasty.
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