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Baked Ziti Recipe – An Easy & Satisfying Dinner Recipe

Baked Ziti is a classic Italian-American meal that is made from ziti pasta noodles, ground meat, tomato sauce and lots of cheese.

It is a popular comfort meal that is often served for family dinners, at potlucks, and as a meal that is gifted to family and friends in a time of need.

The noodles are cooked just enough to become tender and they are then coated in a tomato & meat sauce. Then they are layered with more sauce and lots of cheese.

The casserole is then topped with even more cheese and then baked until hot and bubbly. It is an easy to make recipe that even a novice cook can perfect!

baked ziti casserole
Baked ziti casserole is a delicious comfort meal that you can serve for dinner, at a potluck or to gift to a family member or friend.

Baked Ziti Recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • Lean ground beef
  • Medium onion
  • Garlic
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Tomato paste
  • Dried Italian seasoning
  • Water
  • Ziti noodles
  • Salt
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Shredded Italian cheese blend
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

The first step in making this baked ziti recipe is to prepare the meat and tomato sauce. Start by heating a large skillet over medium heat cook the ground beef until half of the beef is no longer pink.

Then add the diced onions to the skillet with the beef and continue to cook until the meat is cooked through.

Once the meat is no longer pink, add the minced garlic and saute for 1 minute or until the garlic is fragrant.

Then pour the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, and ½ cup water to the skillet and stir. Continue to stir until the tomato paste has melted into the mixture.

Then bring the skillet to a low simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer and then place a lid on the skillet. Stir the sauce occasionally while you cook the pasta.

chicken sausage and onions
If you want to make this dish a little healthier, but still keep the flavor, you can substitute chicken sausage in place of the ground beef.

Cook The Pasta

While the sauce is cooking, fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Then add the salt and pasta to the pot and stir.

Cook until the noodles are al’ dente per instructions on the side of the box. Then drain and place the ziti back in the pot, away from the heat source.

Next, pour 1/2 cup of the tomato meat sauce over the noodles and stir until the pasta is coated. Set aside.

While the pasta is boiling, prepare the cheese filling by mixing the ricotta cheese, Italian cheese blend, and black pepper in a medium bowl until well combined, set aside.

cheese mixture
The cheese filling is made with ricotta cheese and shredded Italian cheese blend.

Layer The Baked Ziti Ingredients

Once the noodles have been cooked, drained, and lightly coated in the sauce, preheat the oven and spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Pour half of the ziti noodles into the prepared baking dish. Then add half of the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the ziti in small dollops. Next, spoon half of the tomato/beef sauce over the pasta and ricotta.

Build the second layer with the remaining noodles, then the remaining cheese mixture and finally the remaining sauce.

Sprinkle the Mozzarella cheese on top, covering the entire casserole.

Loosely cover the baking dish with foil, tenting the top so that the cheese does not touch and melt to the foil.

Then place the dish in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Once the baking time is up, remove the foil and turn the oven to broil.

Keeping the casserole dish on the middle rack, broil for 4-6 minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and starts to turn light brown.

*Be sure to keep a close eye on the casserole at this point so that the cheese doesn’t burn.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top then serve warm.

layering the baked ziti casserole
The first layer of the baked ziti casserole consists of the half of the lightly coated noodles, cheese mixture and then the sauce. Repeat the layers and top with Mozzarella cheese.

Possible Recipe Substitutions

1. Ground Meat

To make this baked ziti recipe a little healthier, feel free to substitute ground turkey, ground chicken or even a plant based meat substitute.

Although, you will need to add a little oil to the skillet when you brown your meat substitute. Otherwise, the meat will stick to the pan because of the lower fat content.

On the contrary, if you want more zest and flavor, substitute ground sausage in place of the beef. You can use mild or hot Italian sausage. Or if you want more flavor, but still want to be a little healthier, use turkey or chicken sausage instead!

2. Pasta

Because of the recipe name itself, it would be hard to substitute a different pasta in this recipe. However, in reality, you could use penne pasta if you can’t find ziti noodles.

So what is the difference between penne and ziti pasta? In simple terms, penne pasta is smaller in length and a little larger in diameter. The ends of penne noodles are cut at an angle which makes it perfect to soak up sauces and to be served with large chunks of meat and vegetables.

However, penne pasta is rarely used in baked Italian dishes. Instead, ziti noodles are the pasta of choice, especially in layered casseroles.

3. Cheese

I would not recommend skipping the Ricotta cheese in this recipe. The tangy flavor of the soft cheese pairs perfectly with the baked ziti sauce. Plus it melts perfectly when baked.

However, if you can’t find shredded Italian cheese blend at your local grocery store, you can make your own. Simply use half shredded Mozzarella cheese and half Parmesan cheese in place of the Italian blend.

baked ziti on plate
Although you can serve baked ziti as a complete meal, it is often served with salad, bread and more!

What To Serve With Baked Ziti

Although this recipe can be a stand alone meal, here are a few suggestions on what to serve along side this traditional comfort food meal.

1. Salad

A fresh garden salad is a great compliment to baked ziti. In fact, if you serve the salad before the meal, you might save yourself a little calories as you will tend to get full quicker.

2. Bread

In my opinion, every pasta dish deserves to be served with bread. There is nothing better than dipping a piece of Italian or French bread into the leftover sauce on your plate.

However, you could also serve homemade garlic bread, roasted garlic bread, or rustic artisan bread with this pasta dish.

3. Tomato Basil Bruschetta

While the baked ziti is baking, serve classic Bruschetta to your family and friends. The light tomato mixture that is served over toasted baguettes is the perfect compliment to this pasta dish.

4. Easy Caprese Salad

Take advantage of all of those late season cherry tomatoes and make this Easy Caprese Salad. Tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil tossed together and then drizzled with a balsamic reduction.

Enjoy! Mary

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Yield: 8 servings

Baked Ziti Recipe

baked ziti casserole

Cooked Ziti noodles layered with a ground beef & tomato sauce mixture and then topped with a delicious cheese blend for an easy to make, dinner recipe.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 5 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 lb. ziti noodles
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 15 oz. ricotta
  • 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat cook the ground beef until half of the beef is no longer pink.
  2. Add the diced onions to the skillet with the beef and continue to cook until the meat is cooked through.
  3. Add the minced garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  4. Pour the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, and ½ cup water to the skillet and stir until the tomato paste has melted into the mixture. Bring the skillet to a low simmer. Place a lid on the skillet and allow it to continue to simmer, stirring occasionally while you cook the pasta.
  5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add ½ Tbsp salt and the ziti to the pot, stir. Cook until the noodles are al' dente per instructions on the side of the box, drain and place back in the pot, away from the heat. Add 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce and stir until the pasta is coated. Set aside.
  6. While the pasta is boiling, prepare the cheese filling by mixing the ricotta cheese, Italian cheese blend, and black pepper in a medium bowl until well combined, set aside.
  7. Begin to preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  8. Pour half of the ziti noodles into the prepared baking dish. Then add half of the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the ziti in small dollops on top of the noodles. Next, spoon half of the tomato/beef sauce over the pasta and ricotta.
  9. Add the second layer with the remaining noodles. then the remaining cheese mixture and finally the remaining sauce.
  10. Sprinkle the Mozzarella cheese on top, covering the entire casserole.
  11. Loosely cover the baking dish with foil, tenting the top so that the cheese does not touch and melt to the foil. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  12. Once the baking time is up, remove the foil and turn the oven to broil. Keeping the casserole dish on the middle rack, broil for 4-6 minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and starts to turn light brown. Keep a close eye on the casserole at this point so that the cheese doesn't burn.
  13. Remove the baking dish from the oven. Let it sit for 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top then serve warm.

Notes

Recipe provided by Make Your Meals

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 459Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 94mgSodium: 926mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 4gSugar: 7gProtein: 36g

Nutritional Information is to be used as a general guideline only . Nutritional calculations will vary from the types and brands of the products used.

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