Baked Ziti is an Italian American classic that always wins! Ziti pasta swimming in meaty tomato sauce flavoured with garlic and basil, then topped with fresh mozzarella and baked to golden perfection.
Looking for a delicious vegetable side to serve with this pasta? My Roasted Parmesan Broccoli with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Garlic and Chillies will round off your Italian dinner nicely!
Pasta dinners are extremely popular in my house while baked pasta dinners trump regular pasta by a mile. Why? I am not entirely sure but my bet would be on that golden melty cheese that covers the pasta like a delicious blanket.
Whenever I make pasta bakes I find kids in the sweetest mood and on their best behavior. Anyone else can relate?
How to Make Easy Baked Ziti
Baked Ziti is a dish many of us grew up eating. It’s an Italian American classic that is hard to argue with. It’s that delicious, comfort food that we associate with homemade cooking.
In so many ways baked ziti is very similar to lasagna but of course it’s not layered and we use ziti pasta not lasagna sheets!
The classic recipe will feature ziti pasta drenched in a meaty pasta sauce made with tomatoes, garlic and Italian herbs like basil and oregano. Ricotta is either dolloped on top or a thinner sauce drizzled over. My recipe is the one without ricotta as a personal preference.
The recipe I am sharing today is a simplified version
- I cook a pound of ground beef with dried oregano, fresh basil and garlic, then add a mix of canned diced tomatoes and crushed tomatoes or tomato passata and simmer until the flavours are melded together.
- Then I combine the meat sauce with slightly undercooked ziti, top with fresh mozzarella and bake for 25 minutes. Undercooking your pasta slightly will ensure the pasta doesn’t get too soft when baked.
- As you notice, I skipped ricotta entirely. Instead I used fresh mozzarella that provides a similar creaminess ricotta gives to the dish. However, regular mozzarella will also work.
What other pasta can I use?
As much as it is popular and abundant in the US, I found it impossible to source ziti pasta in the UK. I actually had to buy it in Italy on our recent trip. Then I also had to watch it like a hawk because my kids kept trying to use it for lunch over their Christmas break.
Good news is no trip to Italy is necessary. Any short tubular pasta will do. If you can’t find ziti, you can use rigatoni or even penne. Gluten free pasta is also a great substitute here. The taste will remain the same.
What can I serve with Baked Pasta?
You can always brighten up your baked pasta with some salads like this Warm Zucchini Salad .
What I found was a delicious combination is topping my baked ziti with fresh cherry tomatoes tossed with a small amount extra virgin olive oil and flavoured with fresh basil and garlic, then sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese.
This little extra that takes your regular pasta bake to the best baked ziti ever! Simple yet very effective.
More flavourite baked pasta recipes:
- Sausage Pasta Bake
- Brie and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese
- Baked Shells with Pesto, Mozzarella and Meat Sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lbs lean ground beef
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 5-6 leaves fresh basil, sliced or 1 tsp dried basil
- 1X400g/14oz canned diced tomatoes
- 1X500g/2 cups tomato passata or crushed tomatoes
- 125ml/1/2cup dry red wine such as Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon optional
- salt to taste
- 1 lbs ziti pasta
- 250g/8oz fresh mozzarella sliced
- Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan, then add the ground beef and brown it until no longer pink inside. Add crushed garlic, sliced basil leaves, dried oregano, canned diced and crushed tomatoes or tomato passata and red wine. Bring to a boil, then salt to taste. Let the sauce simmer over low heat with the lid on for 20-25 minutes.
- While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta in large pot of salted boiling water 3 minutes less than package instructions indicate. Drain, then combine with the sauce once the sauce is done.
- Transfer to a greased ovenproof dish and top with sliced fresh mozzarella, bake uncovered in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until the pasta sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted.
- Before serving combine a handful of halved cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, a touch of minced garlic, salt and olive oil and top the baked ziti. (This step is optional)