Do you like lasagna, but not the fuss? Make baked ziti instead!
It's a lot like a classic lasagna casserole, but easier to make and without lots of layers or broken noodles.
It makes for a perfect midweek or weekend meal, or a hot dish to bring to a potluck. Make extra and freeze for later.
Video: How to Make Baked Ziti
Ingredients in Baked Ziti
This recipe is a pretty basic version, but everyone who makes baked ziti has their own unique tricks and twists to it. Some vary the cheeses, some the meat, some make meatless versions, and some people leave out the tomato sauce for a truly cheese-tastic casserole.
This version uses bulk 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.
Substitutions for Ziti
Ziti is a pretty common pasta shape in most areas, but you can substitute penne pasta if you can't find it. You want a substantial short pasta shape with places to hold the sauce and meat.
What is Ziti Pasta?
Ziti is a hollow pasta in the shape of a smooth tube, sort of like a short straw. It originated in Campagna, Italy, or perhaps Sicily, Italy. Its name means bride or bridegroom, although the stories of why the Italians gave this pasta the name for those getting married can vary. In some parts of Italy, it's served at weddings.
Tomato Sauce for Baked Ziti
There's a link to a pasta sauce recipe in the ingredients, but you can also use any jarred sauce—pasta, marinara, even pizza sauce—in this recipe. Just make sure it's a sauce you like.
How to Store, Reheat, and Freeze Ziti
You can assemble this ahead, and either refrigerate or freeze it before you do the final baking. If you freeze it, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before baking. You can also freeze a baked ziti, and reheat it thawed or frozen.
- Refrigerating and then baking an assembled, unbaked ziti: Cover the assembled ziti with foil and refrigerate up to 24 hours. To bake, remove the foil and bake at 350°F until the top is lightly browned and the cheese is melted. Expect to add at least 15 more minutes baking time than if you had baked it right after assembling.
- Freezing and then baking an assembled, unbaked ziti: To bake frozen unbaked ziti, it's best to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before baking. Remove any plastic wrap. Bake, uncovered, 350°F until lightly browned and bubbly, 60 to 70 minutes. Cover with foil if the top browns before the inside is fully heated.
- Freezing and reheating a baked ziti: Bake, covered with foil, at 350°F. (Make sure you remove any plastic wrap first.) Reheat thawed or frozen; the time will depend on the pan itself, and how frozen the lasagna is. Expect it to take at least 35 to 45 minutes, but check to see that it hits 165°F in the center.
Beloved Sides for Baked Ziti
- Garlic Bread
- Make Ahead Dinner Rolls
- Caesar Salad
- French Green Beans With Butter and Herbs
- Roasted Broccoli With Parmesan
If you don't have Italian seasoning in the pantry, use 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried basil and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme.
1 pound ziti or penne pasta
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound bulk Italian sausage, ground beef, or ground pork
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or basil
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cups jarred marinara or pasta sauce, or make your own tomato sauce
Black pepper, to taste
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
1 heaping cup ricotta cheese
Preheat the oven:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cook the pasta:
Heat a large pot of salted water (for every 2 quarts of water, one tablespoon of salt) to a strong boil. Add the pasta and cook at a rolling boil, uncovered, until the pasta is al dente—edible but still a little firm to the bite.
Drain the pasta through a colander. Toss with a little olive oil so the pasta does not stick together while you make the sauce.
Brown the meat:
While the water is heating in the previous step, start on the sauce. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering hot, add the bulk sausage or ground meat. Break up any large chunks of sausage as it cooks. Brown well.
Don't stir that often or it will be more difficult for the meat to brown. If you are using ground beef or pork instead of sausage, sprinkle with a little salt.
Make the sauce:
When the meat is mostly browned, add the onions and stir well to combine. Sauté everything until the onions are translucent and beginning to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, rosemary or basil, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Cook 1 minute, then add the tomato sauce and stir well. Bring to a simmer.
Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper, if needed.
Assemble the casserole:
Spread a thin layer of the sauce in the bottom of a 9x13-inch casserole pan, then dot the surface with half the ricotta cheese. Ladle a spoonful of sauce into the pasta, stir it well and then add the pasta into the casserole.
Pour the rest of the sauce over the pasta, dot the remaining ricotta cheese over the pasta, and sprinkle on top both the mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese.
At this point, you can cool, cover, and refrigerate or freeze to make ahead.
Bake uncovered in the oven at 350°F until the top is lightly browned and the cheese melted, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 34g||43%|
|Saturated Fat 15g||73%|
|Total Carbohydrate 27g||10%|
|Dietary Fiber 4g||13%|
|Total Sugars 10g|
|Vitamin C 5mg||24%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|