I picked out this recipe since I was working all day and I needed a dish that Paula could put together really quickly. I found it in the June 2015 Cooking Light and even the name, Meatball and Ziti Bake, makes it sound easy. I had Paula use some Costco meatballs that we had in the freezer and so you can skip those steps in this recipe if you have something similar in your freezer and wish to make this meal in the time it takes to cook the pasta.
While you prepare the dish, preheat broiler to high.
Cook 1 box of ziti according to the package directions, omitting any salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl; reserve 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid.
If you are making your own meatballs, do the following: place 1/3 cup of panko breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, black pepper, 1 pound of ground beef, and 1 egg in a bowl, stirring just until combined. Shape the beef mixture into 12 (1-inch) meatballs. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and swirl to coat. Add the meatballs to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the reserved 1/3 cup cooking liquid, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons of basil – if available, some crushed red pepper (if you want a little heat), and 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Stir the pasta into the tomato mixture and spread evenly in a large skillet. Sprinkle 2-3 ounces of shredded mozzarella cheese over the top. Broil 1-2 minutes or until cheese melts. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon basil if it is available. Serve and enjoy! This dish even made enough for some of us to enjoy as leftovers later this week.