16 ounces Ziti Rigati or large Penne pasta, uncooked
1 pound ground beef (hamburger)
1 pound mild Italian sausage
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with liquid
1 (24-ounce jar) tomato sauce or Marinara Sauce*
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 cups red wine
1 (15-ounce) container of ricotta cheese (whole milk or part skim)
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 pounds grated mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan Cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano), divided
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon finely-diced fresh parsley or basil
* Learn how easy it is to make homemade Marinara Sauce.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place oven rack in middle of oven.
Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Learn How To Cook Pasta Properly. Drain and lightly toss noodles with olive oil to prevent sticking.
While the noodles are cooking, brown the ground beef and Italian sausage in large a skillet over medium-high heat; drain off the fat. Add onions and garlic to meat mixture and cook for a couple more minutes until onions are translucent. Add Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes; stir into the meat mixture. Next add the diced tomatoes with liquid, marinara sauce, sugar, and red wine. Stir together and bring just to a boil. Turn down heat to medium-low and let simmer for approximately 20 to 30 minutes.
While pasta and sauce are finishing cooking, in a large bowl add the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese; mix together until combined.
Gently stir in the cooked Ziti pasta and half the meat sauce (about 4 cups) until combined. It is ok to have clumps of the cheese mixture.
In a 9- x 13-inch baking dish or lasagna dish, spread a thin layer of meat sauce on the bottom of the baking dish and layer as follows:
First Layer: Ziti noodle mixture, then meat sauce, then mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top.
Second Layer: Ziti noodle mixture, meat sauce, mozzarella cheese and remaining Parmesan cheese on top (keep from sprinkling cheeses all the way to the edges. Garnish the top with fresh parsley or basil.
Bake approximately 20 minutes. Cheese should be melted and bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.