Baked Ziti

Everybody likes lasagna, but nobody wants to make lasagna. Personally, I don’t think there’s any reason to do it when you can make ziti, lasagna’s lazier, but equally tasty little brother.

Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour 15 minutes

Yield: 13″ x 9″ casserole (8 servings or so)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb box of ziti or penne (I used penne since it’s what I had)
  • 1 lb of ground beef (optional)
  • 12 – 16 oz of ricotta cheese (You can buy it from the store, however I made fresh ricotta before cooking which is unbelievably easy to do and it made this taste 50 times better.)
  • 12 oz of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Olive oil
  • One onion (I actually only used half, but use however much you like)
  • Three – six garlic cloves (Again, to taste, but I used 6)
  • Parmesan (optional)
  • Two 28 oz cans of peeled whole tomatoes (Preferably San Marzano tomatoes, but use what you can get)
  • 1 Tsp dry basil
  • 1 Tsp dry oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 Tsp chili flakes (optional)

Directions

1. Find a skillet or a large pan. If using ground beef, brown your beef inside the pan. Once your meat is browned, drain it and put the ground beef aside.

2. Take the same pan and add about a tbsp of olive oil and heat it on medium heat. While that’s heating, chop the garlic and onion to desired size. Add them to the hot olive oil and let them cook for about one minute.

3. After the onions and garlic have cooked briefly in the oil, add in your can of tomatoes. Let the tomatoes cook for a couple of minutes and then use your spoon or a masher to break up the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are broken up to your desired consistency, add in your oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and chili flakes and stir.

4. Let your tomato sauce cook for 15 – 45 minutes. This is really up to you and how much time you want to spend on it. Just make sure to occasionally stir your sauce and continue breaking up any large tomato chunks that you don’t want. When you’ve reached the halfway point of how long you want to do your sauce, return the ground beef to the sauce and mix it all together. Lower the heat and simmer the rest of the way.

5. While your sauce is cooking find another pan with a lid. Add your dry ziti and enough water to cover it. Bring the water to a boil and occasionally stir your ziti until al dente (probably about 7 or 8 minutes). At this point, preheat your oven to 400 F.

6. Once your noodles are done, drain them and return the noodles to the pan. Now add half of the mozzarella cheese to the pan with the noodles. Cover it tightly with a lid and shake the noodles around in the pan so the mozzarella coats them.

7. When your sauce is done, take a casserole dish and add a layer of sauce. Top this layer with your ricotta cheese. Then top that layer with your cheesy noodles. Then top that layer with the rest of your sauce. Finally, top that layer with the rest of your mozzarella. Finish it with parmesan if you want an extra flavor kick.

8. Let this cook in the oven for about 30 minutes. At this point, enjoy a drink because you’ve earned it. The ziti is done when the top appears golden brown. If you have any extra mozzarella, sprinkle that on after removing from the oven.

Notes & Pro-Tips:

  • The longer your sauce cooks, the better it will be is generally the rule. I personally don’t see much reason to go beyond 45 minutes unless you’re going to dedicate 8 hours to it. Just make sure your onions are translucent and you should be good.
  • If your noodles finish and you’ve got awhile to wait on your sauce, toss the noodles in a bit of olive oil to keep them from sticking together.
  • You can use a jar of your favorite tomato sauce if you really want to go with the lazy theme of the site, but you’ll taste the difference if you make it yourself.
  • If you decide to make your own ricotta, I advise doing that at least an hour before beginning to cook just to make sure you don’t mess up your timing on anything.
  • When serving, using two spatulas will help you keep it in tact if you’re concerned about presentation.

Baked Ziti Playlist:

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