CLASSIC BAKED ZITI

When the weather cools, I pull out my cozy sweaters and work on the comfort food. The layers of pasta, homemade red sauce, Italian sausage, and three types of melty cheese make it rich and creamy. It’s like comfort in a bowl. Baked Ziti doesn’t require any special cooking skills. There’s no need to worry about making delicate sheets of pasta or making perfect layers. You get messy, free-form goodness at its best.

CAN I USE A DIFFERENT PASTA STYLE?

You can substitute penne for ziti, which is a flat, round-shaped pasta. Rigatoni is most similar to ziti. It has a ridge and is slightly shorter than ziti.

CAN I ADD VEGETABLES to Baked ZITI?

Yes! Yes! If I had to add vegetables, I would likely add fresh spinach to the sauce and stir it until it is wilted. Roast some eggplant, zucchini, or broccoli and toss it in the sauce.

CAN I SUBSTITUTE THE SAUSAGE

This dish is enhanced with Italian sausage, but you have a few other options. Ground beef, turkey or chicken can be used, but you will need to use twice the amount of the Italian seasoning mix to compensate for the sausage’s herbs. A vegetarian Italian sausage substitute can be used, or you can substitute it with one pound of chopped mushroom.

WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH BAKED ZITI

Homemade Garlic bread goes great with baked ziti. But if you’re looking for some veggies, I suggest Oven Roasted Broccoli or a simple side dish.

HOW TO STORE LEFTOVERS

The Baked Ziti can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days. Split the leftovers into small portions so they can cool quickly in the fridge. This recipe yields 8 large portions. Once they have cooled, transfer some to the freezer for extended storage. Each serving can be quickly microwaved to make a satisfying last-minute meal.

CLASSIC BAKED ZITI

This Baked Ziti is a freeform lasagna with layers of pasta, homemade red wine and Italian sausage. It also has three types of melty cheese.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 55 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. 1 lb. Italian sausage (sweet or mild, hot) ($3.49)
  • 1 yellow onion ($0.27)
  • 3 oz. tomato paste ($0.27)
  • 1 28 oz. Can crushed tomatoes ($1.00
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning mix ($0.30)
  • 1/2 cup water (0.00)
  • 1 lb. ziti ($1.67)
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt for pasta water ($0.05
  • 15 oz. ricotta ($1.69)
  • 1 cup Italian cheese blend* ($1.15)
  • Freshly cracked black pepper ($0.05
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella ($2.29)
  • 1 chopped handful of parsley (optional garnish, for garnish) $0.20

INSTRUCTIONS

  • The sausage should be browned in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Finely chop the onion while the sausage is browning. Once the sausage is browned, add the onion to the skillet and cook over medium heat until it becomes soft and translucent.
  • Mix the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and Italian seasoning in a saucepan with the sausage. Stir to combine. Cover the skillet with a lid and let it heat up to a simmer. Turn the heat down once the sauce has reached a simmer and continue to cook the ziti. As the sauce simmers, stir it occasionally.
  • Once the sauce is ready, start the ziti. Bring a large saucepan of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil on high heat. After the water has boiled, add the ziti to the pot. Let the water boil for another 7-8 minutes until it becomes tender. The ziti should be strained through a colander. To remove excess water, shake the colander.
  • While the sauce and pasta are cooking, make the cheese filling. Mix the ricotta, Italian-style cheese blend, and freshly cracked pepper in a bowl. Stir to combine. Preheat oven to 350oF.
  • Drain the ziti and return it to the saucepan. Add 1 cup of red sauce. Mix the sauce with the pasta to coat it.
  • Half of the ziti should be added to a 9×13″ baking pan. In small spoonfuls, add half of the ricotta mix to the ziti. Then, drizzle half of the red sauce over the pasta. It is okay that the ingredients do not cover in a solid layer. Continue these layers with the remaining pasta, ricotta sauce, and half of the sauce. Finish by topping with 2 cups of shredded mozzarella.
  • The baking dish should be covered with foil. Ensure the foil is slightly tense and doesn’t stick to the cheese. Bake the casserole covered in foil for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes of baking, remove the foil and broil the oven. Keep the casserole on the middle rack about 10-12 inches from the broiler. Broil for five minutes or until cheese is lightly browned. Broiler intensity can vary, so keep an eye on your baked ziti while it broils. Serve with chopped parsley if desired.

NOTES

*A mixture of Parmesan and mozzarella can be substituted for the Italian cheese blend.

NUTRITION

Serving Size: 1 Serving Calories: 570.03 Kcal Carbohydrates: 39.15 G Protein: 34.04 G Fat: 30.3 g Sodium: 1730.49 mg Fiber: 4.85 g

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