Baked Ziti, a beloved Italian-American dish, embodies the essence of hearty and comforting home-cooked meals. This timeless casserole features al dente ziti pasta enveloped in a luscious tapestry of robust tomato sauce, interspersed with creamy ricotta and crowned with a melty layer of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. A culinary masterpiece that graces dinner tables across generations, baked ziti offers a symphony of flavors and textures that evoke the warmth of Italian kitchens. From its aromatic preparation to the golden perfection achieved in the oven, this dish is an embodiment of comfort, tradition, and the shared joy of indulging in a satisfying, homestyle feast. Prepare to embark on a culinary journey as we delve into the heartwarming world of baked ziti—a dish that transcends time and borders to bring a slice of Italy to your dining experience.
What You Need
1 pound (450g) ziti pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound (450g) ground beef or Italian sausage
1 can (28 ounces/800g) crushed tomatoes
1 can (15 ounces/425g) tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups (475g) ricotta cheese
2 cups (200g) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup (100g) grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil or parsley for garnish (optional)
What To Do
Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease a large baking dish with cooking spray or a bit of olive oil.
Cook the ziti pasta according to the package instructions until it’s al dente. Drain and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions and garlic, sautéing until they’re softened and fragrant. Add the ground beef or Italian sausage, breaking it apart with a spoon and cooking until browned. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. Season with oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Simmer the sauce for about 15-20 minutes to let the flavors meld.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked ziti with half of the tomato sauce. In the prepared baking dish, layer half of the ziti mixture. Dollop half of the ricotta cheese evenly over the pasta. Sprinkle a portion of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Repeat the layers with the remaining ziti, ricotta, and cheeses.
Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
Let the baked ziti cool for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil or parsley if desired. Serve hot, and enjoy this comforting Italian favorite.
This baked ziti recipe is versatile, allowing you to customize it with additional vegetables, herbs, or your preferred choice of meat. It’s a crowd-pleaser that brings the flavors of Italy to your dinner table. Buon appetito!