For the sauce:
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 red onion, peeled and cut in half
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 celery stalk, cut in half
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 (1 pound 8.5 ounces) tomato puree, such as Mutti
1 (4 inch) parmesan rind
5 sprigs basil
1 cup ricotta cheese, at room temperature
For the meatballs:
1 cup stale bread, about 2 small slices, crust removed and insides torn into pieces
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
1 egg, beaten, at room temperature
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound ground sirloin
vegetable oil, to fry
1 pound ziti rigate, cooked in salted boiling water for 5 minutes, shocked and drained
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into 1 inch pieces
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
As seen on: Giada In Italy, Episode 4. Raffy & Raffy.
Heat a medium Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, the onion, garlic, carrot, celery and pepper flakes to the hot pan. Cook stirring often for 2 minutes or until the carrots are beginning to soften. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and add the tomato puree. Rinse each bottle with 1/3 cup of water and add that to the pan as well. Add the parmesan rind and basil and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium low, partially cover with the lid and continue to simmer for an additional 40 minutes.
Remove the parmesan rind, onion, celery, garlic and the basil sprigs and discard. Season with the remaining salt and stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the ricotta and whisk to combine. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, soak the bread, milk and egg for 3 minutes tearing apart the bread with your fingers. Add the parmesan, parsley, salt and ground beef. Mix gently with your hands just until combined. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add enough oil to come 1 inch up the side of the pan. When the oil is hot, use a 1 teaspoon scooper to scoop and roll little meatballs. Place some formed balls into the hot oil. You will have to do a few batches. Do not overcrowd the pan. Cook for 3 minutes on each side or until evenly browned. Using a slotted spoon, remove the balls to a paper towel lined tray. Continue with the remaining meat mixture.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the par cooked ziti in a large bowl. Add 3 or 4 cups of the sauce to the pasta and toss well to coat it in the sauce.
Ladle 1 cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch pan to cover the bottom. Next layer 1/2 of pasta followed by more sauce. Dot the sauce with 3/4 of the meatballs and sprinkle with the eggs, 1/2 of the mozzarella and 1/2 cup grated parmesan. Top with the other 1/2 of the pasta. Dot with the remaining balls and mozzarella cheese. Top with the remaining sauce and parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the sauce is bubbling around the edges. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.