Baked Ziti With Mozzarella Cheese

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At A Glance: How To Make Baked Ziti

Baked Pasta with Mozzarella and Ricotta
  • Cook the meat. We start this recipe by cooking down the meat to create a delicious and salty flavor base for the recipe. Be sure you cook both meats through.
  • Add the spices. You add the spices to the meat and create a homemade ground Italian sausage that will add all of the best flavors and textures to your marinara sauce. You add the spices here too.
  • Deglaze the pot. Use your favorite red wine to deglaze the pot and break up any brown bits from the pot, there is a ton of flavor in those brown bits.
  • Make the sauce. Add the rest of `the ingredients to the pot for the sauce and bring all the ingredients to a simmer.
  • Prepare the noodles. While the sauce is thickening, add the ziti to a large pot of boiling water. Cook the noodles until they are slightly under al dente. They will continue to cook in the oven. Rinse the noodles in cold water so they stop going after straining them.
  • Mix ingredients together + add cheese. Add the noodles to the dutch oven as well as the ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella. Mix all of the ingredients together until combined.
  • Bake. Cover the dutch oven and bake for 20 minutes at 350ºF.
  • More cheese. Bake. Remove the dutch oven from the oven and sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top of the pasta. Bake for an additional 20 minutes uncovered.
  • Remove the pasta from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before enjoying a bowl.
  • My Baked Ziti’s Secret Sauce

    Even before tasting the baked ziti from Parm, I had been dreaming of spooning a thick cream sauce all over my baked ziti, but I had been worried it was too much of a divergence from the classic dish. Once I committed to the idea, everything began to make sense, and every problem with baked ziti I’ve ever had went away.

    First, it’s incredibly easy to make, involving nothing more than reducing some cream and then whisking in a lot of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

    Second, it solved the gritty texture of ziti made with ricrappa. The thing that ricotta adds to a baked ziti is creaminess, but unless it’s a great ricotta, that creaminess comes at too high of a texture cost. But Parmesan cream sauce adds an insane amount of creaminess that’s perfectly smooth. If bad ricotta is the hair-shirt of baked ziti, my Parmesan cream is satin negligee.

    Third, it delivers great Parmesan flavor while solving a dryness issue I usually have with plain grated Parm in a dish like this: The grated cheese adds flavor without adding moisture or texture. Why not re-write the script and shake up the cast? It should have happened with Godfather III it will happen with baked ziti.

    Baked Ziti With Ricotta Cheese

    Baked ziti with ricotta and meat sauce is classic comfort food, and it will become one of your familys favorite meals.

    If you are looking for a hearty, cheesy, comforting family dinner that is a slam dunk with even the pickiest eaters, you came to the right place. This one is perfect to put in the family dinners rotation.

    Plus, it makes a bunch, so you are setting yourself up for some leftovers .

    Recommended Reading: Easy After School Snacks No Bake

    How Long To Bake Baked Ziti

    Baking times can vary based on your oven, but for this recipe, Chef Aston uses a double-baking method. First, he covers the baking dish with foil and bakes for 30 minutes at 350F degrees, then he removes the foil and lets the top crisp up until it’s golden, cheesy and bubbly for another 25-30 minutes.

    Easy Baked Ziti Casserole With Sweet Italian Sausage

    Super hearty and delicious meatless baked ziti with ricotta, mozzarella ...

    Easy & classic baked ziti casserole made with sweet Italian sausage.

    Prep Time

    • 1 1/2 lbs Sweet Italian Sausage
    • 1 Can Crushed Tomatoes
    • 1/2 Cup Dry Red Wine
    • 1 Teaspoon Crumbled Basil
    • 1 Teaspoon Fresh Italian Parsley, chopped
    • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
    • 1 lb Penne Pasta
    • 1/2 Cup Grated Romano Cheese
    • 1/2 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

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    What Cheese Should I Use In My Baked Ziti

    Ah.. the ever popular question what kind of cheese should you use in your ziti? I have made ziti more times that I can count, with probably every combination of cheeses out there.

    While most zitis can be made using just one type of cheese, usually mozzarella, it lacks any depth or imagination. I have landed on the following cheese ratio and the more I make it, the better it seems to get.

    This ziti uses FOUR cheeses:

    • Mozzarella 8 oz.
    • Ricotta 1 cup
    • Provolone 8-12 slices from the deli

    Yes friends, the secret cheese is . provolone! However, each cheese is just as important as the next.

    • Mozzarella obviously for its meltability.
    • Parmesan for its saltiness.
    • Ricotta go out of your way to find an Italian ricotta cheese. It has a sweeter flavor where the American version tends to be saltier and moister.
    • The Provolone cheese, however, is the unexpected surprise in this dish. Provolone has a mild and creamy texture. Purchase it in SLICES as pictured below.

    Can I Add Vegetables To Baked Ziti

    Yes! I almost always add extra vegetables to whatever Im cooking, but today I decided to go with the classic form of Baked Ziti. If I were to add vegetables, I would probably add some fresh spinach into the sauce and stir until it is wilted. Or, roast some broccoli, zucchini, or eggplant, and then toss that into the sauce.

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    How To Make Baked Ziti

  • Brown the sausage and onion over medium-high heat . Add sauce ingredients and simmer.
  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water.
  • Combine the cheese mixture in a small bowl.
  • In a greased baking dish, layer sauce, ziti, and the ricotta mixture.
  • Top with the remaining shredded mozzarella and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  • What Youll Need To Make Baked Ziti With Sausage


    Before we get to the step-by-step instructions, a few words about the ingredients:

    • Ricotta cheese is a traditional addition to baked ziti, but I leave it out because it has a tendency to get dry and grainy when baked. I use heavy cream to add richness instead.
    • For the mozzarella cheese, I recommend using whole milk mozzarella it melts beautifully. You can purchase a plastic-wrapped brick of mozzarella and shred it yourself. Or, to save time time, use pre-shredded mozzarella just be sure it is made from whole milk . Avoid fresh buffalo mozzarella, which is best suited for salads.
    • Many grocers sell bulk Italian sausage , which is simply ground sausage without the casings. If you cant find it, you can ask your butcher to take the meat out of the casings or do it yourself.

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    How To Keep Baked Ziti From Drying Out

    Four key culprits to a dried out ziti are:

    • there is not enough sauce,
    • the noodles arent cooked until JUST AL DENTE and overcook while baking,
    • the noodles arent thoroughly and evenly coated with sauce, or
    • the edges of the noodles are exposed and subject to drying out.

    When I say the pasta should be cooked until al dente what I mean by that is the pasta should be cooked for about 6 minutes. The pasta has gotten softER, but it still has a bite.

    If the pasta is cooked fully it can easily overcook while baking becoming mushy. If it is UNDERCOOKED, it will continue to cook while baking, soaking up the sauce, resulting in a dried out ziti.

    Cook the pasta in salted water over a SLOW BOIL. Violently boiling pasta noodles will break them down. A lot of bubbles on top of the water doesnt allow for proper ventilation of the steam underneath, which results in a frothy foam on top.

    What About The Mozz

    I started out my tests almost certain that I would end up calling for fresh, milky mozzarella, just as I did in my Italian-style eggplant parm. But, doing my best to be a good recipe tester, I tried out side-by-side versions with fresh mozzarella and low-moisture mozzarella.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

    But after tasting them, I decided to do something a little precious and call for both fresh and low-moisture. I mostly don’t like low-moisture mozzarella, especially when it tops something and takes on that weird semi-translucent-rubber look. But there’s no denying that it melts in a really beautiful, satisfying way. I wanted that in my ziti, I just didn’t want it on my ziti.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

    My solution was to fold cubes of low-moisture mozz into the ziti, for the best melted-cheese texture, along with some cubes of fresh mozzarella for a more real milky mozzarella flavor. Then I scatter only fresh mozzarella on top, because it looks so much better. I found that both the truly fresh and also the just-kinda-pretending-to-be-fresh mozzarella cheeses worked well for the fresh mozz here.

    Some people use grated mozzarella in their ziti, but that never made much sense to me: don’t we want reservoirs of gooey cheese in there? Isn’t that half the fun of a melted cheese like mozzarella? Yeah, I thought so.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

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    How To Make It

    Note: The instructions start with the sauce already made. Use our low and slow-cooked Sunday sauce recipe or a quick marinara . If you’re really in a rush, you could use jarred sauce. We will usually save left-over sauce and freeze it just for nights when we feel like a little baked ziti!

  • Grate about of the mozzarella block for the top and cube the rest for the layers.
  • Cook pasta to very ‘al dente’ and toss with about 2-3 cups of the sauce.
  • Mix the ricotta with the pasta and sauce. Coat a large baking dish with a layer of sauce. Add some of the mixed pasta and layer the mozzarella cubes on top of it. Sprinkle some of the Pecorino Romano on top and a bit more sauce. Repeat process for 2 more layers. On the top add a bit more sauce and the grated mozzarella and more Pecorino Romano cheese.
  • Bake at 375-400f for 25-30 minutes until cooked through and the cheese is bubbling.
  • Remove from the oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes uncovered to firm up a bit.

    Serve baked ziti with a nice veggie side like Italian green beans. Garlicky Italian broccoli or sauteed broccoli rabe with garlic and oil would also be perfect side dishes.

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    The next easy step is to transfer half of your mixture to your casserole dish. Cover with grated mozzarella cheese. Add the rest of your mixture and top with more mozzarella. And thats it!

    Bake until bubbly, the cheese is melted, and slightly browned.

    Serve with extra marinara sauce and grated parmesan cheese, a green salad, and crusty garlic bread.

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    How To Make Baked Ziti With Meat Sauce

    To make the sauce, cook the ground beef in a large skillet over medium high heat until cooked through. Use a wooden spoon or angled silicone spatula, like this Zyliss Silicone Stir Fry Spatula from Amazon, to break up the meat while it cooks. Add in the onions and cook until softened. Stir in the garlic and seasonings and cook for a minute longer.

    Pour in the tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. The sauce needs time to develop flavor, so the longer you let it cook the better! But if you are short on time, half an hour works great.

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a separate pot, cook the ziti, penne, or rigatoni pasta. It doesnt matter what specific type of pasta you use, any tube-shaped pasta works. Add the sauce to the pasta and stir in the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.

    Pour into a large casserole dish or 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Sprinkle on remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake for 30 minutes covered. If desired, remove foil and broil for 2-3 minutes to get golden and bubbly. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

    Be sure to try these other delicious baked pasta recipes:

    Why We Love Baked Ziti

    Rich, zesty, cheesy and best of all, its easy!

    • Baked ziti with ricotta is an easy twist on a classic lasagna recipe.
    • Instead of long lasagna noodles, we use ziti pasta and bake it with meat sauce and lots of cheese.
    • It rivals any restaurant pasta for less cost and it has heaps of flavor!
    • Adding Italian sausage to this ziti recipe makes a quick sauce taste like its been cooking for hours!
    • This ziti dish is perfect to make ahead and it reheats and freezes well. Cook once and enjoy for days!

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    How To Make Baked Ziti Step By Step Photos

    Begin by browning 1 pound Italian sausage in a skillet until it is brown and crispy on the edges. Pork sausage has quite a bit of fat in it on its own, so I didnt add any extra to the skillet.

    While the sausage is browning, finely dice a yellow onion. Add it to the skillet with the browned sausage and continue to sauté for a few minutes more, or until the onion is soft and translucent.

    Add 3 oz. tomato paste , 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend, one 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, and 1/2 cup water. Stir to combine, place a lid on the skillet, and let it come up to a simmer. Once simmering, turn the heat down to low and let it continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, while you begin cooking the ziti.

    Once the sauce is simmering away, begin cooking the ziti. Bring a large pot of water with 1/2 Tbsp salt to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add 1 lb. ziti. Continue to boil the ziti until tender, then drain in a colander. Shake the colander a bit to shake out the excess water.

    While the ziti is boiling and the sauce is simmering, make the ricotta cheese blend. Add 15 oz. ricotta, 1 cup Italian cheese blend, and some freshly cracked black pepper to a bowl. Stir to combine. Also begin to preheat the oven to 350ºF at the time.

    After draining the ziti, return it to the pot and add 1 cup of the red sauce. Stir to coat the ziti in the sauce.

    Repeat with a second layer of pasta, ricotta mixture, and sauce, then top with 2 cups shredded mozzarella.

    How To Store Reheat And Freeze Ziti

    Alison Roman’s Best Baked Ziti | NYT Cooking

    You can assemble this ahead, and either refrigerate or freeze it before you do the final baking. If you freeze it, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before baking. You can also freeze a baked ziti, and reheat it thawed or frozen.

    • Refrigerating and then baking an assembled, unbaked ziti: Cover the assembled ziti with foil and refrigerate up to 24 hours. To bake, remove the foil and bake at 350°F until the top is lightly browned and the cheese is melted. Expect to add at least 15 more minutes baking time than if you had baked it right after assembling.
    • Freezing and then baking an assembled, unbaked ziti: To bake frozen unbaked ziti, it’s best to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before baking. Remove any plastic wrap. Bake, uncovered, 350°F until lightly browned and bubbly, 60 to 70 minutes. Cover with foil if the top browns before the inside is fully heated.
    • Freezing and reheating a baked ziti: Bake, covered with foil, at 350°F. Reheat thawed or frozen the time will depend on the pan itself, and how frozen the lasagna is. Expect it to take at least 35 to 45 minutes, but check to see that it hits 165°F in the center.

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    How To Make Baked Ziti Ahead

    The dish can be assembled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days in advance, or frozen for up to 3 months. If frozen, defrost in the refrigerator overnight, and bake, covered tightly with aluminum foil, in a 425°F oven for 25 minutes. Then uncover and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is lightly browned and the pasta is hot throughout.

    Easy Baked Ziti Recipe With Italian Sausage And Fresh Mozzarella

    May 23, 2019

    This post may contain affiliate links.

    Time for a little Italian comfort food: Easy Baked Ziti Recipe. In this recipe, the Italian sausage and a little fresh basil provide all the flavor you need for this simple one-pan dinner!

    Just like anything in my life, I am slowly learning that there is a rhythm for eating. A balance between feasting and fasting, if you will. A variety and moderation–so true of the Mediterranean diet–that provide a certain quality and richness as we feed ourselves and others.

    So, I follow my vegan spicy lentil soup with today’s comforting baked ziti recipe. Still, with a little less cheese for a slightly lighter version.

    Not a new food to many of us, baked ziti is a classic Italian comfort food that, currently in my household, is only rivaled by this eggplant parmigiana.

    This easy baked ziti relies mostly on sweet Italian sausage with fennel and fresh basil for flavor. If it weren’t for my kids, I would have choosen a spicy Italian sausage for that extra kick. You can also replace the sausage with ground beef and your favorite Italian spices, making your baked ziti a less fussy version of classic lasagna.

    I serve this baked ziti next to crusty Italian bread and a simple Mediterranean salad.

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