If you’re a pasta lover, you have to try baked ziti!
This classic Italian comfort food is perfect for those busy weeknights when you just need something warm and satisfying.
Imagine biting into a mouthful of ooey-gooey cheese and savory pasta, all nestled in a deliciously rich meat sauce.
It’s like a big warm hug for your stomach!
And it’s super easy to make. All you have to do is cook the pasta, layer it with the meat sauce and cheese, pop it in the oven for 30 minutes, and voila!
Grab your fork and let’s dig in.
Baked ziti is one of those comfort foods that just hits the spot.
It’s the perfect dish for a cold winter night, a cozy Sunday dinner, or even a casual get-together with friends.
But what exactly is baked ziti? And why is it so darn delicious?
First things first, let’s talk about the star of the show, the pasta.
Ziti is a type of pasta that is similar to spaghetti, but it’s a bit thicker and shorter.
It’s the perfect shape for holding onto all of the delicious sauce and cheese that make baked ziti so irresistible.
But it’s not just the pasta that makes this dish so irresistible. It’s also the sauce that really brings the dish to life.
And when it’s all baked together with gooey mozzarella cheese, you’ve got yourself a meal that’s sure to please any crowd.
But let’s not forget about the meat.
Lean ground beef adds a delicious, heartiness to baked ziti, making it the perfect choice for a comforting and satisfying meal!
The pasta is cooked just until it’s al dente, and then it’s combined with the sauce and meat and baked in the oven.
This allows all of the flavors to meld together and create a truly irresistible dish.
Now you might be thinking that making baked ziti sounds like a lot of work.
But don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it seems.
With a little bit of planning and some basic ingredients, you can have a delicious baked ziti on the table in no time!
Here are the ingredients you need to make baked ziti:
Ziti pasta: This is a type of long, narrow, tube-shaped pasta that is often used in baked dishes like ziti. It holds the sauce well and it has a great texture when cooked.
You could use penne or rigatoni pasta as well.
Onion: Onions add flavor and a slight sweetness to the dish.
Lean ground beef: Ground beef adds protein and a rich, savory flavor to the dish. Using lean ground beef is a good choice because it’s lower in fat and calories.
Ground turkey or sausage work great, too.
Spaghetti sauce: Spaghetti sauce is a classic choice for baked ziti. It’s a flavorful, tomato-based sauce that goes well with pasta and meat.
You could also use a homemade marinara sauce or a meat-based sauce.
Cheese: Use a combo of provolone, sour cream, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese. Provolone adds creaminess and sour cream balances acidity and adds richness.
Mozzarella helps create a gooey top layer, and Parmesan adds a nutty, salty flavor and a golden crust.
How to Make Baked Ziti
Follow these simple steps to create a delicious and comforting baked ziti:
- Cook the pasta. Get your pot of water boiling and cook that ziti pasta to perfection! Bring a big pot of salted water to a rolling boil and add your ziti.
Cook it until it’s al dente, which should take about 8 minutes. Once it’s done, drain the pasta and set it aside for later.
- Time to brown that beef and add in that delicious sauce! In a large skillet, cook your ground beef and diced onion over medium heat.
Once your beef is nice and browned, stir in your spaghetti sauce and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
- Assemble that beauty! In a greased 9×13-inch baking dish, spread half of the cooked ziti on the bottom.
Then, add your sliced provolone cheese, sour cream, half of the meat sauce, remaining ziti, shredded mozzarella cheese, and the remaining meat sauce.
Lastly, sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese on top.
- Bake to perfection! Stick it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and let it cook until it’s heated through and the cheese is all melty.
This should take about 30 minutes. Once it’s done, serve it up and enjoy!
Tips for the Best Baked Ziti
Follow these tips for the best baked ziti you can make:
- Be sure to layer the pasta, meat sauce, and cheese properly in the baking dish to ensure that every bite is packed with flavor.
- Use a combo of different cheeses. Try mozzarella, Parmesan, and ricotta, for a perfect balance of creaminess and tanginess.
- If you want to add a little extra crunch, top your baked ziti with some breadcrumbs before baking.
- If you want to make it even more delicious, you can add some fresh herbs like basil or parsley on top before serving.
- Make sure you use plenty of sauce. Nobody likes a dry baked ziti!
- First things first, don’t be afraid to swap out the ground beef for something different like turkey sausage or any other ground meat of your choice.
- Add extra seasonings, salt, and a clove of garlic to your meat to give it that extra flavor kick.
- Feeling adventurous? Add a dash of red pepper flakes for a little bit of heat. Trust me, it’ll take your taste buds on a wild ride!
- For a richer and creamier sauce, add 1/2 cup of heavy cream to the simmering tomato sauce.
- Fresh herbs can add extra flavor, so you can add them to the cheese mixture or on top before serving.
- Can’t find ziti at the store? You can totally substitute it with penne or rigatoni. Rigatoni is the closest to ziti. It has ridges and is slightly shorter and wider.
- You can definitely add some fresh spinach into the sauce and stir until it’s wilted. Or roast some broccoli, zucchini, or eggplant and toss that into the sauce for added nutrition.
What to Serve with Baked Ziti
If you’re looking for the perfect side dish to go with baked ziti, why not try making some homemade garlic bread?
It’s so delicious and easy to make.
But, if you’re in the mood for something a little healthier, you can try oven-roasted veggies or a side salad.
Both are quick and easy to prepare and will complement your ziti perfectly.
How to Store
Want to enjoy your baked ziti at a later time? No problem!
You can prepare it ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
- To store leftover baked ziti, wrap it tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and place it in an airtight container.
- Keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.
- To reheat the leftover baked ziti, remove the wrap and cover it with foil. Then, bake it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven.
- Check the internal temperature of the ziti before serving. It should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the center.
- If you’re planning to refrigerate it before baking, simply assemble the ziti, cover it with foil, and pop it in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
- If you want to freeze it before baking, assemble the ziti, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap, and freeze it.
- To bake frozen unbaked ziti, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and remove any plastic wrap before baking.
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