Active time: 40 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Serves: 6 to 8
¼ cup olive oil, divided, plus more for brushing
1 garlic clove, minced
1½ tsp crushed red pepper, divided
One 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, smoothies with your hands, juices reserved
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk, warmed
Freshly grated nutmeg
1½ lb ziti
½ lb mozzarella cheese, cut into ½” cubes
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup coarse bread crumbs
1. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add garlic and 1 tsp of crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, just a minute or so. Add the tomatoes, with their juices, and a very large pinch of salt, turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the sauce until just slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, until a smooth paste the palest shade of brown forms, about 2 minutes. While whisking continuously, slowly pour in the milk. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook, stirring, until it is nice and thick, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and season the béchamel to taste with salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
3. Preheat the over to 375°F. Brush a 9-by-13” baking dish with olive oil.
4. Fill your largest pot with water, bring to a boil and season liberally with salt. (You might need to cook the pasta in 2 batches, depending on the size of your pot.) Add the ziti and cook it 3 minutes short of the package instructions—you don’t want it to cool all the way through, or it will overcook when you bake it. Drain the pasta and transfer it to a large bowl.
5. Add the reserved tomato sauce, the béchamel, mozzarella and ¾ cup of the Parmesan to the ziti and stir well. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and scatter the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan over the top.
6. Toss the bread crumbs with the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in a small bowl and season with salt. Scatter the bread crumbs over the ziti, then sprinkle with the reaming ½ tsp of crushed red pepper and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.
7. Bake the pasta until it is bubbling and the top is browned, about 15 minutes. Let the pasta rest for 10 minutes before serving.
From Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen by Dana Cowin. Copyright 2014 Dana Cowin. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.