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Baked pasta is comforting food at its best – you can't go wrong with Parmesan chicken pasta, pizza pasta, or this cheesy ziti. You are sure to get great reviews!
When I crave a cheesy, hot meal on a cold day, I turn to this classic baked ziti. It has layers of tender pasta, a super tasty meat sauce, and lots of melted cheese. It's my favorite recipe for parties and meals, and everyone always comes back for seconds!
How is baked ziti made?
To make baked ziti, you need pasta, a creamy mix of ricotta, and meaty marinara sauce. First prepare the sauce by cooking pieces of ground meat and Italian sausage in a pan with a little salt and pepper. While the meat is cooking, add the chopped onion to the pan and cook everything until the meat is browned and the onion is translucent. Add garlic to skillet and heat briefly before adding marinara sauce. Once everything boils a little, the sauce will be ready. While the sauce is simmering, in a bowl mix ricotta, parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, an egg, and seasoning.
When the sauce is ready, prepare the dish by placing the sauce, the cooked ziti paste, the ricotta mixture, plus ziti, the sauce again and finally the mozzarella cheese on top on a baking sheet. After a quick cook in the oven, the dish is ready to serve.
Tips for the perfect baked pasta
- When you layer the pasta, make sure you have enough sauce to cover all of the pasta. Covering the pasta with sauce helps you cook evenly without drying it out.
- The meat sauce can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Sometimes I even do a double batch and freeze some for another night.
- I normally use 90% lean ground beef. It has a lot of flavor but is not too greasy.
- This pasta can be assembled up to 2 hours before planning to bake it. Store the pasta on a covered plate in the refrigerator until you're ready to put it in the oven.
- Be sure to remove the sausage from the casings before placing the sausage in a cooking pan.
Baked ziti variations
You can easily customize this dish to add other flavors to the mix.
- Meat: You can use ground meat or sausages instead of a combination of meat and sausages. Feel free to use ground turkey instead of beef. Always use 93% lean ground turkey instead of 99% lean ground turkey.
- Pasta: Feel free to use other forms of pasta tube instead of ziti as it can be hard to find sometimes. Penne pasta and rigatoni may be easier to find and work well, too.
- Cheese: Try mixing the mozzarella with other cheeses that melt well, such as fontina or provolone.
- Vegetables: You can add your favorite vegetables to the sauce, such as mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, spinach, olives, or artichokes.
What is the difference between lasagna and baked ziti?
Baked ziti is the casual cousin of lasagna. Lasagna noodles are long and flat, while ziti noodles are small tubes. The flavors are very similar, but instead of carefully placing the lasagna noodles, the ziti layers can be piled up on the baking sheet. Ziti tubes also help collect sauce and cheeses.
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What does ziti pasta look like?
Ziti pasta looks like little round tubes of pasta. They are smooth tubes cut flat and perpendicular to the tube instead of some pastes that are cut at an angle.
This recipe makes a meaty and cheesy baked pasta that is comforting Italian food at its finest. The tender ziti is the perfect way to bring all the tasty flavor of this dish from the fork to the mouth. Try this recipe, it will become one of your favorites!
More pasta dishes you'll love
- Buffalo chicken pasta
- Mushroom paste with bacon
- Cajun Shrimp Pasta
- Carbonara Pasta
- Pomodoro pasta
This baked ziti recipe consists of layers of pasta with meat sauce and three types of cheese, all cooked together to golden perfection. A hearty dinner option that's perfect for feeding a crowd!
Preparation time: 20 minutes Cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes Total time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Servings: 8 Calories: 699kcal
For the sauce
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef I use 90% lean
- 1 pound soft Italian sausage wraps removed
- 1/2 Cup of onion finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 24 ounces canned marinara sauce
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
For the ricotta mixture
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
For the assembly
- 16 ounces ziti pasta cooked according to package directions
- 2 cups of grated mozzarella cheese
- 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
- Cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat 9 "x 13" skillet with cooking spray.
For the sauce
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and sausage to skillet. Season the meat with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook the meat for 3 minutes, breaking it into small pieces with a spatula. Add the onion to the pan. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until meat is browned and cooked through and onion is tender. Drain any excess fat from the pan.
- Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add marinara sauce and tomato sauce to skillet and simmer.
- Let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes.
- While the sauce is simmering, mix together the ricotta, egg, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Mix until well mixed.
For the assembly
- Place 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of the pan. Add half of the pasta over the sauce.
- Spoon the ricotta cheese mixture onto the ziti, along with 1/3 of the sauce.
- Add another layer of ziti paste, then the remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle 2 cups of mozzarella cheese on top.
- Bake covered for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until pasta is bubbly and cheese is melted and browned.
- Sprinkle with parsley, then serve.
Calories :: 699kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Cholesterol: 165mg | Sodium: 711mg | Potassium: 943 mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1090 IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 450mg | Iron: 4 mg