I try to keep at least one can, each, of tomato products in my pantry. Fortunately, I had crushed tomato. The rest of the ingredients are six cloves of garlic, red pepper flakes, water, heavy cream, Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
I decided to add one zucchini (from our garden) to this recipe, for a little extra crunch and to "healthify" it a little more.
America's Test Kitchen used the kind of grated mozzarella that comes wrapped in plastic. I rarely buy that, preferring fresh mozzarella. Either way works fine, I am sure.
I simply sliced the mozzarella thin (like 1/2")
The sauce is very easy to make, by sauteing the garlic and red pepper flakes in some olive oil. Then you add a can of crushed tomatoes.
Next, you add water, salt and the pasta and cover it. The pasta is cooked until it's tender-- about 15 to 18 minutes. Preheat the oven to 475F.
While the pasta was cooking, I quickly sauteed the zucchini in a little olive oil and lightly seasoned them with salt & pepper. Then, when the pasta was tender, I added the zucchini. One pan cooking-- how easy is that?!
Last, stir in the heavy cream, Parmesan and fresh basil...
Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over ziti. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cheese has melted and browned, about 10 minutes. NOTE: Because I used fresh mozzarella, the cheese melted but it didn't brown.
Total prep and cooking time took about 30 minutes. While the pasta cooked, I had time to clean my mess, and that is such a help on a work night.
VERDICT: The sauce was delicious. I liked the garlic flavor, which was definitely present but not overpowering. The red pepper flakes were very subtle, and it added a little bit of heat. The heavy cream turned the sauce a light pink color, and toned down the tomato flavor. I liked it. Of course, I had to add more fresh basil. My only criticism, is that I thought the sauce was a little runny for my liking. I'm not sure what the fix would be. I'd be hesitant to reduce the water, as the pasta has to cook in the sauce and it does absorb a lot of the liquid. I'm glad I added the zucchini, as it added some texture. The next time I make this, I might consider adding cooked Italian sausage (maybe even turkey sausage) and/or mushrooms.
Overall, it's a simple pasta dish that rates "very easy".
A printable recipe card can be found at the end of this post.