There is nothing like warm cheesy goodness on a cold night. This dish can be done in under 30 minutes and without making much of a mess if you plan well and have a skillet that can be used in the oven. (Sadly, we don't so more dirty dishes for us :( )
Serves 2-3 (It is no problem to double this recipe if your pan is large enough):
1/2 can (14 ounces) crushed tomatoes
6 ounces penne (ziti also works here)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (we left this out)
1/8 cup fresh basil, minced (we used dried)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 Tbs olive oil
3 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper as needed
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (always optional)
We were in a hurry so we prepared everything before we got cooking. This let us do the actual cooking in under 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 475 F (245 C) ---> yes hot! Put oven rack in the middle position.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high in a skillet that you can also put in the oven*. Add garlic, pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook about one minute.
~*If you are like us and do not have one of these, that is okay too. We just transferred everything into a baking dish when it was time to bake. ~
Add the crushed tomatoes, water, penne (or ziti) and more salt (about another 1/2 tsp). Cover and cook, stirring often (oops, we didn't bother to stir and it worked out just fine). Adjust the heat so it stays at a vigorous simmer. Cook 15-18 minutes or until the pasta is almost tender.
Stir in cream, Parmesan (we left this out and it wasn't obvious), and basil. Season to your likening with salt and pepper.
~If you need to transfer the pasta into an oven-safe dish do it now~
Sprinkle the top with mozzarella.
Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starts to brown.
Serve alone or with a side salad.
This recipe was adapted from Cook's Illustrated - Skillet Baked Ziti.