Friday, July 16, 2010
Baked ziti is one of my long-standing go-to dishes. I’ve been making variations of it for years. Sometimes it’s the old cheesey standby. Sometimes I add chicken sausage. Sometimes vegetables. Sometimes I leave out the ricotta, which basically turns it into something else all together. However you make it, it’s pretty much a guarantee that baked ziti will be delicious.
Besides its taste, one of the things I like best about baked ziti is how quickly it comes together. Boil some noodles, stir in some cheesey goodness, and pop it in the oven. It needs a little time to cook, but the active prep work is practically non-existent. You can have dinner on the table without breaking a sweat – which I love, because making dinner causes me to break a sweat far more often than I’d like!
Baked ziti is also a perfect dish for those times when you’d like to bring dinner to someone. I made this particular version for my dear friends on the night they brought their beautiful baby girl home from the hospital. I split the recipe into two pans, giving half to them, and reserving the other half for when I go out of town in a few days. Yep, that’s one more thing that’s great about baked ziti – it freezes like a dream. It’s the perfect dish to make ahead and store in the freezer. You know, just in case you happen to have a significant other who begs you not to leave… at least not without leaving a fully stocked fridge behind.
16 oz. ziti or penne pasta (I like penne rigate. The lines help hold the sauce.)
26 to 28 oz. jar marinara sauce, divided
15 oz. ricotta cheese, part-skim or whole milk
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3 T. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Stop cooking the pasta when it is just slightly undercooked; it will continue cooking in the oven. Drain the pasta and set it aside.
In a large bowl, add 1 1/2 cups of the marinara sauce, the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, pepper, and egg. Stir well to combine.
Add the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture. Stir well to combine.
Pour a small amount of the remaining marinara sauce into a 9x13-inch baking dish. (You can also use a 3 quart casserole dish or two smaller dishes such as 8x8 or 9x9-inch baking pans.) Shake the dish or use a spoon to lightly coat the bottom of the dish with the sauce.
Spread the pasta mixture into the dish.
Pour the remaining sauce over the pasta and spread it evenly over the top. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of Parmesan cheese over the top.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. (Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for smaller dishes.)