Baked Ziti with Meatballs
- 1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 3/4 cup grated Romano
- 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound ground beef
- All-purpose flour, for dredging
- 1 pound ziti
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 cups tomato sauce
- 3 cups whole milk ricotta
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, eggs, milk, 1/2 cup of the Romano and the parsley, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Add beef and gently combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Shape into bite-size meatballs. Roll each meatball in flour to coat, shaking off excess.
In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander and set aside. If not using immediately, cover top with plastic wrap so that pasta does not dry out. Do not rinse pasta with water since you want to retain the pasta's natural starches so that the sauce will cling to the ziti.
In a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat. When almost smoking, add meatballs in batches and without moving or turning the meat, allow it to brown for about 3 minutes. Turn meatballs and brown other side. Continue to cook until all sides are golden brown. Remove meatballs to a plate.
In a large bowl, combine the tomato sauce and ricotta and mix well. Add the cooked ziti and meatballs and toss gently.
In a large greased baking dish, pour in pasta mixture. Sprinkle the mozzarella, Parmesan, and remaining Romano all over the top. Dot with the butter. Place baking dish on top of baking sheet covered with aluminum foil to collect any drippings from the dish. Bake until top is golden brown and bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.