Two-Color Ziti Fake-Bake

Bright green kale and basil, red sauce and white cheese speak to the true Italian flavors represented in this quick-cook fake-bake casserole.


  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 pound ziti rigate, whole wheat ziti or any other short-cut pasta
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped, divided
  • 1 bunch cavolo nero (also called tuscan kale, dinosaur kale or lacinato kale), stemmed and very thinly sliced
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta or sheep’s milk ricotta cheese
  • About 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 1 can Italian tomatoes in puree (28 ounces)
  • A few leaves of fresh basil, torn
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced or shredded mozzarella cheese


Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving about 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.

While the pasta is working, in a large skillet, heat about 1 1/2 tablespoons EVOO, one and a half turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Stir in two cloves garlic for 1 minute, then add the kale to wilt to crisp-tender, a couple of minutes. Season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg. Transfer to a plate and reserve the skillet.

Pre-heat the broiler and position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Place the ricotta cheese in the bottom of a casserole dish.

Place the reserved skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons EVOO, two turns of the pan. Stir in the remaining two cloves garlic for 1 minute, then add the onion and stir for 2 minutes. Using a blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes. Add them to the garlic and onion and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the basil to wilt. Lower the heat to a simmer.

Add the pasta, reserved cooking water and the kale to the ricotta in the casserole dish; season with salt and pepper. Top with two-thirds of the tomato sauce, a thin layer of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and the mozzarella. Broil for a few minutes to brown the cheeses. Pass the remaining sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table for topping.

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Rachael Ray