Everything you need to know to master a baked ziti that will feed your soul
Pasta al forno – baked pasta – is a classic Italian celebration dish, especially in the south around Sicily, where it is often made for weddings. There are many, many ways to bake pasta, but my favorite is ziti stufati, which is my Great-Aunt Raffy’s specialty (and she passed the cheesy crown down to Aunt Raffy). A tomato-and-ricotta sauce is poured over ziti, lots of tiny meatballs, and hard-boiled egg (though I sometimes “forget” to add the egg – make it to your taste!), then baked with fresh mozzarella and parmesan until bubbling and golden. Stufati means stewed, and here it refers to the way the pasta and meatballs continue to cook in the sauce while it’s in the oven.
Use pasta that is really al dente – boil it for just 5 minutes – so it can finish cooking in the oven without getting mushy. Toss with the sauce, then spread half of it in the baking dish. Add most of the meatballs, all of the eggs, and half of the mozzarella, then the rest of the pasta, meatballs, and more cheese. All those layers will melt into each other as it bakes, leaving you with a harmonious meal that’s cheesy, saucy, and delicious all the way through, with a crisp golden crust. Serve your family, and let it feed your souls.