Baked ziti is a classic Italian-American dish that is perfect for any occasion. It is made with ziti pasta, tomato sauce, Italian sausage, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese. It is a hearty and satisfying dish that will surely please everyone at the table.
History of Baked Ziti
Baked ziti is thought to have originated in Southern Italy in the early 1900s. It was brought to the United States by Italian immigrants in the late 19th century. Baked ziti quickly became popular in the United States, and it is now one of the most popular Italian-American dishes.
Making Baked Ziti
Baked ziti is a relatively easy dish to make. The first step is to cook the ziti pasta according to the package directions. While the pasta is cooking, brown the Italian sausage in a large skillet. Once the sausage is browned, drain off any excess grease.
Add tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese to the skillet. Stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is combined.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the sauce mixture. Stir until the pasta is coated in the sauce.
Pour the pasta mixture into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle additional mozzarella cheese over the top of the pasta.
Bake the ziti in a preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Best Baked Ziti
The best-baked ziti is made with fresh ingredients. Use high-quality Italian sausage, tomato sauce, and ricotta cheese. For the mozzarella cheese, use a combination of shredded and sliced mozzarella. The shredded mozzarella will melt and create a gooey cheese topping, while the sliced mozzarella will add a bit of texture to the dish.
How to Make Baked Ziti
Indulge in the rich flavors of this baked ziti masterpiece by gathering the following key ingredients:
1. Ziti Pasta (1 pound):
Embrace the heartiness of ziti pasta, a classic choice for baked dishes. Its tubular shape allows the sauce to nestle within, creating a delightful interplay of textures. Once cooked to perfection, ziti provides a substantial base that complements the savory components of this dish.
2. Italian Sausage (1 pound):
Elevate the dish with the robust and savory notes of Italian sausage. When browned to a golden perfection, the sausage brings a depth of flavor that marries seamlessly with the other ingredients. Its distinctive spices add character to the overall profile, ensuring each bite is a savory delight.
3. Tomato Sauce (24 ounces):
The soul of any Italian dish, tomato sauce contributes a vibrant and tangy essence. Crafted from ripe tomatoes and aromatic herbs, this sauce infuses the ziti with a burst of freshness. Its luscious texture envelops the pasta, creating a harmonious blend that tantalizes the taste buds.
4. Ricotta Cheese (1 cup):
Introduce a creamy and indulgent element with ricotta cheese. This velvety addition not only enriches the sauce but also imparts a luxurious creaminess to the baked ziti. Its mild, slightly sweet undertones balance the bold flavors, ensuring a decadent and well-rounded culinary experience.
5. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (1 cup):
Immerse the baked ziti in a gooey layer of melted goodness with shredded mozzarella cheese. Known for its excellent melting properties, this cheese forms a golden, bubbly crust that adds texture and richness. Its savory stretchiness binds the ingredients together, creating a mouthwatering union of flavors.
6. Sliced Mozzarella Cheese (1/2 cup):
Elevate the visual appeal and texture of the dish with artfully placed slices of mozzarella cheese. These slices add a delightful gooeyness to each bite, creating pockets of melted cheese that mingle seamlessly with the other components. A final touch that transforms the dish into a culinary masterpiece.
Baked Ziti Recipe
- 2 tablespoons olive oil 30 grams
- 1 whole large onion diced (2 cups, 170 grams)
- 4 cloves garlic minced (2 tablespoons, 6 grams)
- 1 pound Italian sausage casings removed (450 grams)
- 1 pound ground beef 450 grams
- 28 ounces can whole tomatoes crushed by hand (800 grams)
- 14.5 ounces cans tomato sauce or marinara sauce 416 grams
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning 6 grams
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 2.5 grams
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 16 ounces ziti or mostaccioli pasta 450 grams
- 15 ounces tub whole milk ricotta cheese 425 grams
- 1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese grated and divided (680 grams)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 60 grams
- 1 large egg
- Freshly minced parsley for garnish
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the Italian sausage and ground beef to the pot and cook until browned, breaking up the meat with a spoon as it cooks.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to the pot. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.
- While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the grated mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
- Add the cooked pasta to the sauce pot and stir to combine.
- Spread 1/2 of the pasta mixture in a 9×13 inch baking dish. Top with 1/2 of the ricotta cheese mixture. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the remaining mozzarella cheese.
- Repeat layers with the remaining pasta mixture, ricotta cheese mixture, and mozzarella cheese.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with freshly minced parsley, if desired.
- You can use any type of pasta you like for this recipe.
- If you don’t have Italian sausage, you can use ground beef or ground pork instead.
- If you don’t like spicy food, you can omit the red pepper flakes.
- Feel free to add other ingredients to the sauce, such as mushrooms, green peppers, or onions.
- For a richer flavor, use whole milk ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese.
- To make ahead of time, assemble the casserole as directed but do not bake. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
What kind of tomato sauce should I use for baked ziti?
You can use any type of tomato sauce that you like. However, I recommend using a high-quality Italian tomato sauce.
Can I use ground beef instead of Italian sausage in baked ziti?
Yes, you can use ground beef instead of Italian sausage in baked ziti. However, the flavor of the dish will be slightly different.
Can I make baked ziti ahead of time?
Yes, you can make baked ziti ahead of time. Assemble the dish according to the instructions, but do not bake it. Cover the dish and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake the ziti, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the ziti for 30-35 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Baked ziti is a delicious and easy-to-make dish that is perfect for any occasion. It is a hearty and satisfying dish that will surely please everyone at the table. So next time you are looking for a delicious and easy-to-make meal, try baked ziti. You won’t be disappointed!
Explore more of the wonderful world that is Italian Cuisine, take a look at our linguine with clam sauce recipe to see the full extent of this luxurious cuisine.