Baked Ziti

10 Sep

This is another of those recipes I’ve handed out a billion times, so apologies (again) to those who’ve seen it before. It is my first go-to recipe to take to new moms and sick people and friends who need a dinner in the fridge, and my number-one choice for a simple, cheap recipe my family will gobble down time after time. And I know everybody has a ziti recipe in their arsenals, but I’ve simplified this one to give that wonderful creamy, cheesy texture without needing a counterful of pots and pans and gadgets.

I have no idea where I got the original version of this recipe–it was the first dinner I played with, so it’s been awhile. The original had you layer ziti and sauce with cheese, so you had a layer of pasta, a layer of cheese, a layer of pasta, and a layer of cheese. Lovely. But time-consuming and a pain in the rear, even back before kids and family madness.

I combined the cheese layer and the sauce, so you end up with pasta in a delightful creamy sauce that’s delicious on its own. You ricotta haters (I hear you!), see the photo below. Do you see ricotta? No, you don’t. What you see and taste is yummy. Even if your family howls at soft cheeses, give this one  a go. They’ll never notice it.

If you’re taking this to someone else, you can stop before you bake it up and give it to them “raw” with a note to stick it in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes, which is easy enough. They’ll get a fresher-tasting dinner than if you cook it all the way. But you certainly can cook it all the way and give it that way, or cut it up and freeze it, which we frequently do. It’s a great make-ahead freezer meal.

I usually bake this in a Pyrex dish, but foil works just fine (as in the photo above) for days you’re transporting it. Just bake it for less time–keep an eye on it after about 25 minutes so the pasta doesn’t dry out. I like mine browned and crunchy around the edges, but bake it to your desired level of done-ness.

So here you go. I hope you love this. We do.

Baked Ziti

One pound ziti noodles, cooked al dente (they’ll cook more in the oven) and drained.

One 24-oz jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce OR three cups of homemade sauce (purists, relax–it’s all good)

One 15-oz container of ricotta cheese, part-skim works fine

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

1 – 2 cups shredded Mozzarella or Italian blend cheese, depending how cheesy you want this.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, stir together Ricotta, beaten eggs, and Parmesan. You can add Italian seasoning, garlic, or whatever flavors you like to this mixture if you want.

Using the pot you boiled the pasta in, combine the pasta, sauce, and cheese mixture together until the sauce is uniform. Pour that into a 9 x 13 dish sprayed with olive oil or nonstick spray. Sprinkle Mozzarella cheese on top. Stop here if you want to give this un-baked to someone. Otherwise, Bake for 30 – 40 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

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4 Responses to “Baked Ziti”

  1. Mary m September 13, 2010 at 2:40 am #

    I told Clara we could make this this week…she’s the biggest pasta fan in the house, and enjoys helping cook. I’ll let ya know how it turns out! I’m thinking of prepping it at lunch, atleast the noodles, then mixing it all and popping it in the oven as soon as I get home from work

  2. Lauri September 13, 2010 at 6:56 am #

    Made this for dinner last night and it was a hit! Yummy!!!

  3. mary m October 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

    Made this, and everyone loved it! I used jarred sauce but added a lb of extra lean (the 91% I think?) ground beef so it was really hearty. Leftovers were even better the next day! Next time will make in 2 8×8 pans and freeze one 🙂

  4. Laura December 7, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    I’m going to make this on Friday! Thanks!

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