Why You Should Incorporate Two Sauces When Making Baked Pasta

A good baked pasta dish — like baked ziti — relies on the quality of its ingredients to become greater than the sum of its parts. So naturally, it's important to select the right kinds of noodles, sauce, and cheese to guarantee a rich and gooey outcome with the perfect al dente chew. But if you're up for a little extra effort, try making up your baked pasta dish with a twist: Use two sauces — one tomato-based and one that "replaces" the cheese — for a truly mouthwatering experience.

Before you worry about losing all the cheesy goodness in your dish, know that this method does not actually mean you are eliminating cheese from the recipe. Instead, it requires melting the cheese into béchamel — a staple French sauce made from butter, flour, and milk. Adding cheese to béchamel transforms it into what is called a mornay, a silky and luxurious sauce that allows you to cohesively incorporate your preferred cheeses into your pasta bake without worrying about them drying out in the oven, as fresh cheeses often do when heated.

How to make mornay sauce

If you're not a fan of crispier melted cheese on your pasta bake — or you're simply hoping for the signature gooeyness that indicates your dish is perfectly done — ditch the chunks of raw cheese for a mornay sauce. You'll need to make its base, a béchamel sauce, first — for one cup of béchamel, combine one tablespoon of flour with one tablespoon of melted butter to create a paste, and cook on a stovetop on medium-low heat until golden brown. Then, slowly stream in one cup of milk and whisk until the sauce has fully combined and thickened. Finally, to create your mornay, add in your cheese — mozzarella, parmesan, or gruyère are recommended — and stir until melted.

When it comes to assembly, it couldn't be easier: Simply prepare your baked pasta dish as you normally would until it's time to add the marinara. At this point, you will fold your mornay into the marinara to achieve an ultra-creamy, perfectly-balanced pasta sauce. Continue to prepare and cook your dish as usual — then enjoy what might be the best baked pasta you've ever tasted.