What athletes eat: WNBA player Lexie Brown's baked ziti family recipe

Lexie Brown helped to lead the University of Maryland to two Final Four berths before transferring to Duke, where she finished out her college career. This year, Brown was drafted by the Connecticut Sun -- and after recently finishing up her rookie season, she's ready for some time off, and a little more time to splurge with meals, too.

Brown shared an old family recipe she made on a recent trip to catch up with some former teammates. But she's clear that she's far from a pro in the kitchen. "If anyone knows me they know that cooking isn't my strong suit. When I master something, it's kind of a big deal," she says. "Baked ziti is definitely a dish I have mastered, so I was excited to make it for them. The recipe is super easy and doesn't take much time at all."

Day and time: Dinner on a visit to see some old teammates at Duke

Place: Durham, North Carolina

What I'm eating: Baked ziti

Why I'm eating it: Baked ziti is one of my absolute favorite meals ever. Any time my mom asked me what I wanted for dinner I always asked for it. No matter what. I wouldn't recommend a plate of baked ziti before a big game or tough workout, but it's great for right after! I made this on a visit to some old teammates. They had definitely had a long, hard week of workouts so I wanted to treat them!

Whose recipe: My mom's (and my grandma's before that)

The recipe:


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef
2 14.5-ounce cans of tomato or marinara sauce
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese, grated
1 pound ziti

One 15-ounce tub of ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley

Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and sauté until starting to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook until browned.

Drain off almost all of the fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture. Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, Italian seasoning and some salt and pepper. Stir, bring to a simmer and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove 3 to 4 cups of the cooked sauce to a bowl to cool down.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add some salt. Cook the ziti until not quite al dente.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a bowl, mix 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, the ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, eggs and some salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).

Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps). Add the cooled reserved meat sauce and toss to combine.

Add half the coated pasta to a large casserole dish or lasagna dish. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with half the remaining mozzarella. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta and the remaining sauce and mozzarella.

Bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before sprinkling with chopped parsley to serve.