Greek Baked Ziti

Now here's a classic Greek family meal. A good dish to bring to a potluck. Baked ziti is a lot like lasagna, but easier to make. This version uses mild Italian sausage, as well as a key fresh herb. In summer, that would be basil. In winter, rosemary. You could also easily use savory, sage, thyme or parsley. Ziti is a pretty common pasta shape, but you can substitute penne pasta if you can't find it.
You can make this ahead, and either refrigerate or freeze before you do the final baking.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 12 ounces (360g) ziti or penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound mild Italian sausage, skinned and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 (28-oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings
COURSE: Pasta
CUISINE: Italian
Prep Time: 50 min
Cooking Time: 30 min
Total Time: 1 hrs 20 min
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Heat the oven to 350°. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, sauté onion in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add beef and sausage; cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until crumbled and no longer pink. Drain the mixture, and return to skillet.
  3. Stir tomato sauce, next 4 ingredients, and 1 tsp. salt into the meat mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour, and cook, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Increase heat to medium, and cook, whisking constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Stir in Parmesan cheese, pepper, and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. Add sauce to the pasta, stirring to coat.
  5. Transfer pasta mixture to a lightly greased or sprayed 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Top with beef mixture, mozzarella cheese, and breadcrumbs.
  6. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.