Adapted from Food + Wine via Amateur Gourmet
1 pound ziti or penne
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound lean ground sirloin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
One 24-ounce jar Rao's marinara sauce (I used nearly all of a 32-ounce jar, to beneficial effect)
1 cup fresh ricotta (I reduced this from 1 1/2 cups)
1 large round ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
If you’re making this ahead, don’t preheat your oven yet. If you’re making it all at once, preheat your oven to 450.
In a large deep skillet, heat the olive oil on medium heat, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until the onion is softened but not brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute just until fragrant. Add the ground sirloin, crushed red pepper and paprika, seasoning with salt. Turn the heat up to high, break up the meat with a spoon and cook until the meat is brown (and no longer pink). Add the sauce, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook—partially covered—for 5 minutes until the sauce tastes great. Set aside.
Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water. Cook one or two minutes less than the package says; you want it al dente. Drain the pasta and then toss the pasta in the sauce. Add the ricotta in large dollops and stir gently, leaving some clumps.
Pour half the ziti into a 9x13-inch baking dish, top with half of the mozzarella and parmesan. Repeat with the remaining ziti and cheeses. [Here’s where you can cover with foil and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake.]
When you’re ready, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and bake the ziti uncovered for 15 minutes, until bubbling and browned. Let the ziti rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.