Easy Baked Ziti
EASY BAKED ZITI
For the first year of our marriage whenever I cooked I instinctively made enough food for ten people at least without even thinking about it. I was just used to cooking for a ton of people being from such a large family.
Back then John could almost kill a whole 9X13 pan of food by himself…but things change. His metabolism has slowed down and he doesn’t eat nearly as much as he used to. As for me…I’m still trying to find my metabolism from those days. It must be hiding in a closet somewhere with my pre-birthing hips!
My mom’s house is still the gathering place on Sunday. Every Sunday my mom still makes enough food for around 40 people. Sometimes only 10 people come over, sometimes a huge crowd. Although I live thousands of miles away from her now, on Sundays I still tend to cook big meals.
I am always looking for recipes to feed a crowd since we like to have friends over to our house for dinner often. This easy Baked Ziti recipe is great because both the kids and the adults will like it. It’s also a great take in meal for someone who is sick or just had a baby.
In full disclosure, I have two baked ziti recipes. This Baked Ziti is a little more complex and uses more pans. It’s more traditional. This ziti recipe is a little easier and better for when you don’t have as much patience or time.
Add a salad and some garlic bread and you’re set. This easy Baked Ziti recipe makes a heaping 9X13 casserole so if you are just feeding your little family you should half it. The sour cream and Provolone give it great flavor. It has a similar taste to lasagna without all the hard work!
- GROUND ITALIAN SAUSAGE – Sausage is my preferred ground meat but you could use ground beef or ground turkey as well. For extra flavor use hot sausage.
- ZITI – really any short pasta or tubed pasta can be used (penne pasta or rigatoni) in this pasta bake but ziti pasta is great for this recipe. The shape of the ziti noodles is good for this sauce and filling.
- ONION –
- GARLIC – I like to use fresh minced garlic but you can use garlic powder as a sub.
- MARINARA SAUCE – you can use homemade marinara sauce but as far as jarred sauce I really like Rao’s marinara. It tastes homemade. Tomato paste doesn’t provide enough tomato flavor in the pasta sauce.
- SOUR CREAM – ricotta cheese is sometimes used in pastas but sour cream is the unexpected special ingredient that makes this creamy.
- MOZZARELLA CHEESE – I don’t use fresh mozzarella but shredded mozzarella cheese, Italian cheeses of any kind can be used.
- PROVOLONE CHEESE
- PARMESAN CHEESE
- ITALIAN SEASONING
Tips for How to Make Baked Ziti:
- It’s important to cook your pasta al dente. The pasta continues to cook when you bake it and you don’t want the ziti to be soggy.
- The recipe calls for Italian sausage but using a hot sausage will give it a lot of flavor if you like a little heat.
- If you want to make ahead of time and freeze, this Baked Ziti freezes well.
OTHER ITALIAN RECIPES
- Unstuffed Shells Casserole
- Chicken Parmesan Meatballs
- One-Pan Baked Ziti Skillet
- Chicken and Spinach Stuffed Shells
- Sausage Baked Ziti
- One-Pan Spinach Artichoke Pasta
- Chicken Broccoli Alfredo
- One-Pan Chicken Parmesan Pasta
Easy Baked Ziti
This Easy Baked Ziti is a great Italian casserole recipe for feeding a crowd filled with pasta, sausage, and cheese.
- 1 pound dry ziti pasta
- 1 onion, diced finely
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasonings
- 2 (26 ounce) jars marinara sauce (I like Rao's)
- 6 ounces Provolone cheese, sliced ( 9 rounds)
- 1 cup sour cream
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (2 cups)
- grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente according to package directions, about 8 minutes; drain.
In a large skillet, brown onion and sausage (or beef ) over medium heat. Drain the fat. Add minced garlic and cook for a minute or so. Add the marinara sauce and Italian seasonings to the cooked sausage, and simmer 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer as follows: 1/2 of the ziti, 1/2 meat sauce mixture, all of the Provolone cheese, all of the sour cream, remaining ziti, remaining sauce mixture and then mozzarella cheese. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.
Spray aluminum foil with cooking spray so it doesn't stick to the cheese. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starts to brown. Top with fresh basil if desired.
Source: adapted from Allrecipes