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BAKED ZITI RECIPE
Can you think of anything better than a hot, cheesy baked pasta dish with tomato sauce and sausage? It makes my mouth water just thinking of the smell in my kitchen. Everybody loves a great baked pasta recipe, but they can take a lot of time to make.
Lasagna is a good example. Everybody loves it, but not everyone wants to make it. Try baked ziti instead. It has the same amazing flavor, but takes a fraction of the time to make. It tastes like you spent all day in the kitchen and your family will love you for it.
WHAT IS ZITI PASTA?
I’m sure you have seen penne pasta. Ziti is a short pasta just like penne, but doesn’t have the ends cut at an angle. They are shaped like a tube. It is not always easy to find ziti pasta, so a great substitute for ziti would be penne or any other short pasta of your choice. In fact, I make this dish using penne all the time.
INGREDIENTS IN BAKED ZITI RECIPE
– You basically need short pasta, tomato sauce, some sort of ground protein and the cheese or cheeses of your choice. In this recipe, I used jarred, store-bought marinara sauce as a base and added dried parsley, Italian seasoning, and fresh basil to make it taste better.
– For the protein in the recipe, you can use the one you like the most depending on your taste or dietary needs. I love to use bulk Italian sausage, but you can use ground beef, ground pork or even ground chicken or turkey.
– Mozzarella cheese is a must. There is nothing like the cheese pull you get from melted mozzarella cheese. I like to also add ricotta cheese mixed into the casserole and top it with grated Parmesan.
– Chopped onion, garlic and red bell pepper add another layer of flavor to this dish.
HOW TO MAKE BAKED ZITI?
– To make this easy baked ziti, first you need to make the meat sauce. Start by browning the Italian sausage along with chopped onion, red bell pepper and garlic. I like to finely chop my veggies to get the most flavor out of them and not have big chunks in my sauce. Once the meat is brown, you can add the marinara sauce and the herbs. Let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes and then add salt and pepper to taste.
– While the sauce is simmering, boil the ziti or penne pasta until al dente (with a little bite to it). Drain the pasta, return it to the pot and add a ladle-full of sauce into it. Mix it until combined.
– To prepare the casserole, add a layer of pasta sauce into the bottom of a baking dish (about half of what’s left in the pot), dot it with half of the ricotta cheese, add the pasta, dot the pasta with the rest of the ricotta cheese and then top this with the rest of the sauce.
– To finish the dish, sprinkle shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese on top. Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes or until the cheeses are melted and bubbly.
HOW TO STORE BAKED ZITI
If you want to make this dish ahead of time, you can assemble the casserole, let it cool completely and cover with a layer of foil and two layers of plastic wrap. Freeze it for up to 4 months. Remember to label it with the date you made it. Prior to baking it, let it thaw completely before baking it.
If you have any leftovers, just place them in an airtight container and refrigerate them for up to 4 days, or freeze them for up to 4 months. To reheat, just sprinkle some water on top of the leftovers and microwave until heated through. You can also cover the leftovers with foil and reheat them in the oven. This way they won’t dry out.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH BAKED ZITI
In my opinion, a side salad and some garlic bread are all this dish needs to be an amazing meal.
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- 1 lb of bulk Italian sausage
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped white onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
- 2- 20oz bottles of marinara sauce
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 ½ teaspoons of Italian seasoning
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb ziti or penne pasta
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Using a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and cook the Italian sausage with the onions, bell pepper and garlic, until cooked through. Break the sausage up as you cook it.
- Add the marinara sauce, parsley, Italian seasoning, fresh basil, and red pepper flakes. Simmer the sauce for about 10 mins. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta in salted water just until “al dente” (with a little bit of a bite still to it). Drain the cooked pasta and return it to the pot. Mix about a ladle-full of sauce into the pasta.
- Assemble the casserole by adding a layer of sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 inch casserole dish.
- Dot the sauce with half of the ricotta cheese.
- Add in the pasta and the rest of the ricotta cheese on top of it.
- Pour the remaining sauce on top of the pasta and ricotta.
- Finish with the shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese on top. Bake uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the cheeses are melted and bubbly.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 599Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 1631mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 5gSugar: 11gProtein: 32g