1 tablespoon olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Table salt & ground black pepper
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
3 cups water
1 pound ziti (or any pasta shape you have on hand)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Making the Minutes Count: Measure the water and the pasta before you begin cooking. Prep the Parmesan and basil while the pasta cooks.
1. Heat Oven: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees.
2. Simmer Ziti: Combine oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in 12-inch, oven-safe skillet and saute over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add crushed tomatoes, water, ziti, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring often and adjusting heat as needed to maintain vigorous simmer, until ziti is almost tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
3. Add cheese and bake: Stir in cream, Parmesan and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over ziti. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cheese has melted and browned, about 10 minutes. Serve.
*Just a few notes: do not shred your own mozzarella. Seriously. Buy it
in the bag, already shredded. I never knew how soft mozzarella really
was, and my gosh, it was a mess… Garlic that’s been minced by hand, by
you? It’s so much better than the kind you buy already minced, in the
little jar. Trust me, fresh garlic? So worth it… Freshly grated
Parmesan? Essential. Again, just like with the garlic, take the extra
few minutes and grate your own… Lastly, real basil? Yes, go for it.
Seriously. It adds just the ‘punch’ the dish needs. Honestly, the
basil? I really think it’s the most important ingredient, beyond the
obvious (pasta, tomatoes and cheese). You must use real, fresh basil.
It makes the dish taste, well, special. And if you are wondering how
you will use up the remaining basil? Because, oh, what a waste
otherwise? You can chop it up and throw it in your scrambled eggs in
the morning, or you can ‘julienne’ it (place several leaves on top of
one another, roll up into a tight cylinder and cut across, unroll, and
you have ‘julienne’) and sprinkle it atop slices of mozzarella and
tomatoes and drizzle with Balsamic vinegar. Or, you can simply extend
the life of your basil (or any other fresh herb) by wrapping it in a
damp paper towel and storing it in a plastic bag, to be placed in your
refrigerator. This will give the basil (or any other fresh herb) about
one week. And remember: fresh herbs? Can make any dish seem special.