January 13, 2018

Baked Ziti

I love Italian food, but with the exception of a simple Chicken Parmesan and Spaghetti & Meatballs, it's not usually on our weekly menu. I love Trisha Yearwood's Cowboy Lasagna, but rarely ever make it. (By the way, that post has received the most hits of all my posts with a whopping 19,715 - that is, if Blogger's stats are truly accurate.) I discovered The Pioneer Woman's recipe for Baked Ziti a few years ago, but have only made it a couple of times. Last week, I decided it was time for some gooey, cheesy, yummy pasta and Baked Ziti was at the top of my list. The first time I made this recipe, I used a regular 9x13 glass dish, which was fine, but it was very full.

This time around, I decided to use a disposable aluminum pan, which is a bit deeper. It is definitely better for this huge batch of pasta, but you really have to be careful and support it with a cookie sheet or baking pan. This recipe weighs a ton!

Baked Ziti
The Pioneer Woman


2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 whole large onion, diced
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 lb. ground beef
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes with juice
2 cans (14.5 oz. each) tomato sauce or marinara sauce
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper, to taste
16 oz. Ziti or Mostaciolli 
1 container (15 oz.) whole milk ricotta cheese
1 and 1/1 lbs. mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
Fresh parsley, minced

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for several minutes. Once the onions have softened a bit, add the Italian sausage and ground beef. Cook until browned. Drain the fat.

Add the tomatoes (with their juice) and tomato sauce, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Stir and simmer for 30 minutes. After that time, remove 3-4 cups of the meat sauce to a separate bowl and allow it to cool.

While the meat sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Do not overcook. Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process. Allow it to cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a separate (large) bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, salt and pepper. Stir together until just slightly mixed. Add the cooled pasta and toss until slightly combined. Add the 3-4 cups of reserved meat sauce, which should now be cool.

Prepare a large casserole dish with olive oil spray or PAM. Add half the coated pasta to the dish. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with half of the remaining mozzarella cheese. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta, the sauce, and the mozzarella. 

Bake, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes (or until bubbling and the cheese is just beginning to brown). Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Yield: 12

My Notes:

Ziti vs. Mostaccioli vs. Penne. I don't think it really matters which you use. I usually have Penne Pasta on hand, so that's what I used. 

I blended the whole tomatoes just enough so there weren't a lot of big chunks in the sauce.

I allowed the sauce to simmer for a couple of hours rather than just 30 minutes. 

This really makes a lot, so once the dish had completely cooled, I put a couple of servings in quart-size freezer bags for future meals. We ate some of the leftovers (that weren't frozen) over the next few days and while the sauce was a little bit drier, it was still delicious. You can probably just add some marinara to your leftovers, if you like.

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  1. Replies
    1. Kathy, my family sure thought it was! And we love leftovers. :)

  2. OMG this looks so good and so warming. I think I'm adding to my meal plan this week. And I love that I can freeze half for later in the winter. Yummmm.

    1. Candace, it really is a wonderful meal. Hope you enjoy it!

  3. Baked pasta dishes are in the food news quite a bit this month, probably because they are so appropriate for the weather we've been having in the Eastern half of the US. Everyone needs comfort food!

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    1. Mae, this is a wonderful "comfort" meal. I don't make it very often, but it's a big hit with my family.

  4. I'm here to tell you that it was just as good as it looks!

  5. Great dish for cold weather. Have a great week. Cheers from Carole's chatter

    1. Carole, it's a perfect winter meal, whether for lunch or dinner. We've been enjoying the leftovers for lunch and it's hearty enough that we don't need much in the way of supper.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  6. This stuff is so good. I make it about once a year when we have people over for a football party and we still have leftovers. I actually bought an extra large lasagna pan that I use for this recipe.

    1. Juli, I was trying to think of what to fix for dinner for some new friends and this is high on the list. Yep, a large lasagna pan is perfect for this recipe.

  7. Looks delicious! Just needs a nice glass of wine to go with it right :)

    1. Iliana, I'm pretty sure I had a nice Cabernet with it!


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