There are no words to describe how ridiculously good this traditional baked ziti is! Very simple to prepare, packed with three types of cheese, very cheesy, and meaty. With its incredible flavor, this is a midweek dish that everyone will adore! This is a fantastic dish that freezes well and can be prepared in advance for any occasion. For the best possible supper, serve with garlic bread, a side salad, or both!
Friends, hello there! We seem to be in that strange season when summer hasn’t ended yet fall fashion is starting to show up, lol. Really, I noticed pumpkin candles while I was in Target the other day. Just to be really honest, you know, I did purchase two of them for myself in front of my very favorite season. I guess this is nothing new to my regular readers, lol!
Never Miss A Good Deal!
Recently, I’ve been digging hearty, comforting classics—meals that I prepare often and that are just appropriate for the soul. Yes, that’s what my baked ziti is. I’m not sure how many times I make it, to be honest. I often resort to baked ziti for entertaining, hectic weeknights, and anytime I just want to give someone a hearty, comforting meal. It’s a crowd-pleasing dinner that is a timeless jewel of flavor.
The Greatest Baked Ziti You’ve Ever Tried!
- SO SIMPLE Classic baked ziti is really easy to make, unlike other pasta dishes. This baked ziti doesn’t require a ton of ingredients or a well developed meat sauce. Yes, this dish is really delicious and simple to create. I adore it!
- EXCITING, EXCITING GOODNESS! We can all probably agree that spaghetti with cheese is always delicious. Sure. My recipe calls for three different types of cheese, and they all go so well together when dipped in that delicious meaty sauce. When it’s baked, the golden brown color just makes me smile.
- Taste of Town Express! As I mentioned before, the flavor of this baked ziti dish is not at all compromised despite its ease of preparation. Every single bite is laden with beautifully thick meat sauce, spices, a variety of cheeses, and fresh basil, it’s just amazing.
Ingredients for Baked Ziti: What You’ll Need
- Pasta for ziti: indeed, we’re preparing baked ziti, right? Although it should go without saying, rigatoni and penne are also excellent pasta options that may be used in place of ziti pasta in this recipe.
- Butter and olive oil together: this is how you sauté and brown meat.
- Ground Italian sausage: The meat in my recipe is made entirely of sausage. For a little kick of spice, I like my ground sausage spicy Italian style. I think the meat sauce from sausage is more tasty and juicy. If you’re not a sausage fan or need a substitute, ground beef will do! Furthermore, if you’d like, you may even utilize a combination of the two!
- An onion may provide a lot of flavor; a good white onion can also be used.
- Five fresh garlic cloves; please set aside the canned minced garlic.
- Together, tomato paste creates a beef sauce that is both robust and delicious.
- Brown sugar adds taste and helps to counteract the acidity of tomato-based goods.
- Crushed fire-roasted tomatoes: Look for these in the canned goods section of most supermarkets. One of the sauce’s highlights is these fire-roasted tomatoes, which gain even more flavor from their prior roasting over an open flame.
- Spices: garlic powder, dried basil, dried oregano, and salt.
- The three cheeses are parmesan, mozzarella, and ricotta.
- Fresh basil: Specifically, a basil chiffonade (thin strips of basil) is used throughout this baked ziti to provide a beautiful herbaceous punch.Expounded upon on the recipe card that follows.
How To Make This Baked Ziti Recipe
- Prepare your baking dish and preheat the oven. I prefer to use an avocado or olive oil spray to coat my baking pan. To make sure that nothing adheres to the pan too much, grease it.
- Make the sausage brown. In a big saucepan, melt the butter and oil, then add the sausage. It really helps to break up the ground sausage with a wooden implement! Next, continue cooking the sausage until it is fully browned and starts to take on little, crispy pieces. Once cooked, move the sausage to a clean bowl and reserve using a slotted spoon.
- Include the onion, chopped. Using the remaining grease in the saucepan, sauté the onion until it becomes soft.
- Include the garlic. Add the minced garlic and sauté with the onion in the mixture.
- Stir in the brown sugar and tomato paste. Add the brown sugar and tomato paste and stir.
- Add the spices and smashed tomatoes. Add the smashed tomatoes, garlic powder, dried oregano and basil, salt, and pepper. In order to completely blend, stir everything together.
- Put the sausage in. Reintroduce the cooked sausage that was set aside and mix well.
- Reduce heat in sauce. Lower the temperature to a simmer and let the sauce continue to cook.
- Prepare the spaghetti. As directed on the package, cook the pasta al dente in a big pot of boiling salted water. After draining the pasta, set aside 1/3 cup of the pasta water.
- Mix the spaghetti with the sauce. Place the cooked pasta in the saucepan with the meat sauce, along with the pasta water. After combining everything, remove from the heat and stir again.
The Great Things About Baked Ziti
We adore baked ziti because it’s a wonderfully flavorful pasta dish that needs very little work—this is crucial! I often like to joke that baked ziti is essentially lasagna without having to deal with the layers, noodles, and other hassles haha. It’s also a lovely, hearty dish that freezes well for those last-minute plans and is literally the ideal food to prepare ahead of time.
How to Put Baked Ziti Together
It’s very simple to assemble your baked ziti meal, friends! That’s how:
- Evenly distribute half of the spaghetti around the pan’s bottom.
- Place dollops of ricotta cheese on top of the spaghetti layer (see the picture below).
- Next, immediately on top of the ricotta, scatter half of the mozzarella cheese.
- Top the mozzarella cheese with a little amount of the basil chiffonade.
- Again, place the leftover spaghetti on top in a uniform layer.
- Finally, top with the remaining mozzarella cheese.
Let’s Discuss About Cheese!
This baked ziti dish calls for ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses, just like many others do. All three of these cheeses combine to a wonderful combination in varying proportions, giving this meal the perfect degree of cheesiness. Ricotta is an incredibly smooth and velvety fresh cheese that tastes great, particularly in baked pasta dishes. On the other hand, perfectly melted shredded low-moisture/part-skim mozzarella cheese melts and tastes lovely and smooth! On the other hand, parmesan cheese is a firm cheese with a taste that is stronger and more assertive. They’re all what make this baked ziti so delicious.
Advice & Methods for the Greatest Baked Ziti
- Don’t turn off the fire once the sauce has been blended; instead, let it simmer! To let the flavors melt together, simmer the sauce as instructed on the recipe card below.
- Pasta should not be overcooked; instead, boil it according to the package’s instructions. Most pasta boxes and packets will specify the al dente cooking time. Remember that the pasta will continue to cook as it bakes and until it is mixed with the meat sauce.
- Use block-style mozzarella cheese; resist the urge to use pre-bagged shredded cheese if at all possible. I promise you that we don’t want the powder coating that’s on that sort of cheese. Take a brick of mozzarella cheese and shred it yourself using a hand grater for a creamier and more delicious baked ziti. Grate your own cheese; it’s a little additional work, but well worth it.
Quin’s analysis: The whole baked ziti problem is providing more than what is necessary. Pasta dishes that are very rich in sauce don’t appeal to Ya Girl. I cry inside when there’s too much red sauce or when the sauce is too thick—#helloacidreflux, haha. I do like tomato-based products, but not to that level, hehe! Overall, I think this recipe’s red sauce is great because it’s not overbearing and serves its purpose. I love this traditional baked ziti recipe so much that I can never have a pan of it in my house for very long.
Let’s Discuss Variations, Substitutions, and Other Things!
- About The Meat (Sausage): If you’re not a fan of sausage, you may either use ground beef or ground turkey. If not, you can use any mix of your preferred ground meats in this recipe.
- Vegan Ziti Baked? My plant-based buddies—where are they? With a few simple substitutions, everyone can enjoy baked zitis! Use whatever vegan ground “beef” that you prefer, vegan butter, vegan ricotta (this one from Minimalist Baker is very fantastic), and nondairy mozzarella and parmesan cheese shreds (I especially enjoy the cheeses from Follow Your Heart and Violife).
- Include some vegetables! Add some roasted or sautéed zucchini, eggplant, or mushrooms straight into the sauce! Furthermore, feel free to add some chopped or unchopped fresh spinach. Toss the spinach in the sauce until it wilts completely, just making sure to mix.
How To Store Baked Ziti
If kept in the refrigerator, baked ziti can keep for three to five days. Any leftovers should be wrapped in foil or plastic wrap or kept in an airtight container. Place the baked ziti in the freezer and it will keep for one to two months. To avoid freezer burn or bad odors, wrap leftovers tightly if freezing them. The night before you want to have frozen baked ziti, let the pasta thaw in the refrigerator. After that, bake the pasta for 15 to 20 minutes at 350°F in the oven or reheat it in the microwave.
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Traditional Baked Ziti
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 pounds ground Italian sausage hot or mild
- 1 medium-sized yellow onion finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves finely minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
- 1 28 ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
For the baked ziti
- 1 pound ziti pasta
- 15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
- 16 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese freshly shredded and divided
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese divided
- 1/4 cup basil chiffonade divided- see note below
- Set oven temperature to 375°F. Grease or lightly spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, then put it aside.
- Heat the butter and olive oil in a large dutch oven or deep pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the ground sausage after the mixture begins to sizzle. The sausage should be cooked for five to seven minutes, or until it is browned and somewhat crispy, using a wooden tool to break it up. Next, move the cooked sausage to a sanitized basin and put it aside using a slotted spoon.
- In the same pan, add the chopped onion and stir. For two to three minutes, or until the onion is soft and transparent, sauté it. Next, add the minced garlic and stir the mixture for another one to two minutes, or until the garlic becomes aromatic.
- Brown sugar and tomato paste should be added, and everything should be well combined. Add the dried basil, dry oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and smashed tomatoes with all of the liquid. Toss to mix everything well.
- Reintroduce the cooked sausage that was set aside, stirring to combine the sauce. After lowering the heat to low, simmer the sauce for 15 to 20 minutes.
- As the sauce is simmering, put a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente, following the directions on the box.
- In order to create the baked ziti, evenly distribute half of the pasta into the baking dish that has been prepped. Next, place little amounts of ricotta cheese straight over the spaghetti in various areas. Then, scatter half of the shredded mozzarella cheese and two tablespoons of the grated parmesan cheese on top of the ricotta cheese. Next, add two teaspoons, or half of the basil chiffonade, on top. Sprinkle the remaining half of the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses on top after spooning the remaining spaghetti over the surface in a uniform layer.
- Pasta should be baked for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and browned.
- Give the cooked ziti ten minutes to cool in the baking dish. Serve right away after adding the last of the basil chiffonade as a garnish. Have fun!
- Please read the blog post in its entirety for more tips + tricks.
- For a basil chiffonade, arrange young basil leaves in a stack squarely on top of one another. Next, roll the leaves tightly into a log starting from the bottom. Cut the leaves crosswise into thin strips using a sharp knife.