Green and Red Big Baked Ziti
Whip up this pasta bake ahead of time and bring it to your next potluck!
- 2 pounds ziti rigate
For the green ziti:
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- Salt and pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
- 1 cup flat leaf parsley, packed
- 1 cup basil leaves, loosely packed
- 1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, grated or pasted
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, divided
- 1/4-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
For the red ziti:
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 2-3 large cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
- 1/4 cup minced herbs, such as oregano, thyme and parsley
- A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red or white wine
- 1 small onion, peeled and halved
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 1 can Italian San Marzano tomatoes (32 ounces)
- A few leaves of basil, torn
- 1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese or mild provolone cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
Prepare both sauces first, then salt the boiling water and undercook the ziti by 1-2 minutes, just shy of al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the starchy cooking water just before draining the ziti.
For the green sauce, melt the butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour, cook for 1 minute, then add the milk. Cook to thicken to coat a spoon; season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste. Keep warm, covered over low heat. In a food processor, combine the herbs with the nuts, garlic, half of the Parm – a couple of handfuls – salt and pepper. Add the EVOO and pulse into very thick paste. Reserve.
For the red sauce, heat a saucepot over medium-high heat with the EVOO. Add the garlic, herbs and red pepper flakes and stir for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir until fragrant; add the wine and reduce by half. Add the onion, bay leaf and canned tomatoes; break them up and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the basil, reduce the heat to simmer and cook the sauce for 30 minutes partially covered, stirring occasionally. Remove the onion and bay leaf.
Toss half of the ziti with red sauce, half a cup of the starchy cooking water and the ricotta cheese. Transfer to a large, deep baking dish.
For the green ziti, stir the pesto into the white sauce, turning it green. Toss the remaining ziti with half a cup of the starchy cooking water and the green sauce. Carefully arrange the green ziti over the red.
Top the entire casserole with mozzarella or provolone and the remaining 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Bake until bubbly and brown, about 15-20 minutes.