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Italian Baked Ziti-closeup in the pan

Italian Baked Ziti (with Hard-Boiled Egg and Eggplant Meatballs)

  • Author: Nicoletta
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Pasta, Vegetarian
  • Method: Baking, Stove top
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

This oven-baked ziti recipe features a luscious tomato sauce with ricotta mixed in, al dente ziti coated in the sauce, all dressed with mozzarella, Parmigiano, chunks of hard-boiled egg and tiny eggplant meatballs. Not your usual pasta bake, and definitely not a 30-minute meal, but so rewarding and fulfilling!


Ingredients

For the Sauce:

  • 796 ml (1 big can) San Marzano tomatoes, whole
  • 3 Tbsp e.v.o. oil
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 1 small carrot, minced
  • 1 small celery stalk, cut in half
  • pinch of chili flakes
  • salt to taste
  • 2 sprigs of basil
  • 1/2 cup ricotta, added to the cooked sauce

For the Eggplant Meatballs:

  • 1 medium-size eggplant, roasted, the pulp
  • 1 Tbsp parsley
  • 2 Tbsp Pecorino Romano
  • 1 medium egg
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 23 Tbsp Italian-style breadcrumbs

Assembly:

  • 250 g ziti, broke into pieces, or mezzi ziti
  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella, cut in pieces
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Instructions

For the Sauce:

  1. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the e.v.o. oil, the garlic clove smashed, the minced onion and carrot, the celery and chili flakes. Cook, stirring often, until the carrots begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add salt and the tomato puree (rinse out the can with some water and add that to the pot as well). Add the basil sprigs and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 40 minutes.
  3. When the sauce is done, turn off the heat, remove garlic, celery and basil. Let cool slightly in the pan, then add the ricotta and stir to combine. Set aside.

For the Eggplant Meatballs:

  1. Wash the eggplant (aubergine) and poke it with a fork. Place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast in the oven at 400° F (200 ° C) for 30 minutes, turning at half the time.
  2. Once cooked, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the pulp and discard the peel.
  3. Place the pulp in a colander or sieve and squeeze it to lose the excess moisture.
  4. Transfer the drained pulp to a bowl, and add the egg, Pecorino, salt and pepper, parsley and bread crumbs. Mix well.
  5. With the palm of your hands form tiny meatballs the size of a walnut.
  6. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush them with extra virgin olive oil before baking and cook them at 400° F (200 ° C) for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown, turning them at half the cooking time.

For the Hard-Boiled Egg:

  1. Place the egg in a saucepan and cover with cool water. Bring water to a rolling boil over high heat, then boil for 6–7 minutes over medium-high heat. Drain, peel and let cool. Chop into pieces and set aside.

For the Pasta:

  1. Cook the ziti in plenty of salted boiling water for half the cooking time. Drain them, but keep it a little watery, and toss them in a bowl with half of the rosé sauce. Leave the other half of the sauce for the assembly.

Assembly:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400º F (200° C).
  2. Cover the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with a couple ladle of the sauce.
  3. Next, layer half of the cooked ziti, followed by more sauce.
  4. Dot with three-quarters of the meatballs and the chopped boiled egg.
  5. Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella and half of the Parmigiano.
  6. Top with the remaining half of the pasta and then the remaining meatballs and mozzarella.
  7. Finish with the remaining sauce and Parmigiano.
  8. Bake until lightly browned on top and bubbling around the edges, 30 minutes. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Notes

You can use your favorite tomato sauce, although I’m pretty sure once you try how flavorful this is, you are going to use it for a lot more dishes.

Use your favorite meatball recipe. Pan-fry them, or oven-bake them, or cook them in the sauce, as you most like. Just remember, make tiny meatballs!

You can use rigatoni or maccheroni in place of the ziti.

The cook time is only for the final baking of the dish. The prep time includes the cooking of the eggplant, sauce, egg, boiling of the pasta, and meatballs.

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