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How To Make an All-Star Baked Ziti — Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn

The odor of pasta, tomato sauce, and cheese baking in combination is certainly one of existence’s maximum comforting scents. I do know that what is going to pop out of the oven will enchantment to adults and kids alike, feed a crowd with out breaking the financial institution, and be simply simple scrumptious. It is no surprise that baked ziti is the go-to for potlucks.

Here is the right way to make an all-star pan of baked ziti — one that is by no means dry, made with a beneficiant quantity of cheese, and layered for without equal consuming revel in.

Baked Ziti Is Lasagna’s Relax, Laid-Again Cousin

Lasagna and baked ziti percentage numerous the similar elements, however I to find that baked ziti is so much more straightforward to throw in combination and serve. Since you should not have to strive against pasta sheets or lasagna noodles or spend numerous time layering the entirety in combination, baked ziti will provide you with the similar delight of consuming lasagna, with out the entire fuss.

Sauce It Up

The primary downside I have all the time had with baked ziti is dryness for the reason that pasta sucks up numerous sauce whilst baking. The straightforward treatment is to be beneficiant with the sauce. If you wish to be bold and make your individual marinara, extra energy to you — your ziti will probably be superb. I have been pleased with the usage of a good-quality store-bought marinara, then again, and simply doctoring it up with sautéed onions and garlic.

Going home made? Make this sauce: Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

The Nice Pasta Debate: Ziti vs. Penne

Ziti is straight-cut tubes of easy pasta, and the tubes are tremendous vital as a result of they entice in sauce and little nuggets of cheese. Penne, which is tubes of pasta minimize at a diagonal, have a tendency to be more straightforward to search out and will also be textured with ridges at the outdoor, trapping much more tasty sauce. Both form of pasta will paintings fantastically right here.

Our pasta overwhelm: The On a regular basis Pasta Emblem Italians Purchase ( & You Will have to Too)

Three-Cheese Perfection

Personally, it is obligatory for a nice baked ziti to have 3 cheeses — and this isn’t the time to be skimpy with how a lot. Use mozzarella as it melts fantastically, Parmesan for intensity of taste, and ricotta for some creaminess.

Ricotta is the defining cheese of baked ziti and I will be able to’t believe no longer the usage of it. Its downfall is that it could bake up right into a dry and grainy layer. Some folks paintings round that by way of including an egg to the ricotta and even substituting with cottage cheese. I really like the flavour of ricotta, despite the fact that, so I have discovered that the easy step of folding the ricotta into the pasta and sauce as an alternative of layering it solves the issue and distributes it lightly with none dry bits. Plus, one much less factor to layer within the baking dish!

Layering Is Essential (however It is Simple!)

The primary time I made baked ziti, I made distinct layers of ricotta and a thick topping of sauce and mozzarella at the most sensible, however the ones layers simply did not paintings. I stopped up with dry ricotta and mozzarella that did not distribute itself lightly into the entire dish. Some bites have been simply cheese and sauce, and a few simply pasta. So I had to return to the strategy planning stage. After some tinkering, I discovered the right way to put the entire dish in combination in a greater means:

  • Ensuring the pasta is well-sauced, then fold within the ricotta.
  • Layer part the mozzarella into the pasta and reserve part for the highest. It bakes up golden-brown — the hallmark of a nice pasta casserole.
  • Ensure that there may be sufficient sauce to make use of as a layer on the most sensible, below the mozzarella. This will likely insulated the pasta and stay it from drying out.

The Versatility of Baked Ziti

At its core, baked ziti is only a pasta casserole, however one that is a potluck favourite as a result of it may be a hearty facet dish or do responsibility as the primary route. Sure, it is not the quickest dish to throw in combination, however it may be made forward and reheated and even frozen for a very easy weeknight meal. Additionally it is adaptable to the gang you might be feeding or no matter elements within the refrigerator want to be used up.

Since I’ve a small family of 3, I really like making baked ziti in two smaller baking dishes, then freezing one for later. I have even given baked ziti to households with newborns, and it is a pleasure to peer the fogeys’ eyes illuminate once they obtain it. Baked ziti bliss!

Tester’s Word

Residing as much as its title, this baked ziti is the entirety a pasta casserole must be: tacky, saucy, comforting, and filling. The standout step is tossing the pasta with one of the crucial sauce, after which folding within the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses. This prevents the pasta and ricotta from drying out and promises bites of pasta, sauce, and cheese in each forkful. Folding within the ricotta leaves stunning pillows of ricotta dispersed right here and there all through the casserole. I may not blame you for going again for seconds, heaven is aware of I did. — Patty, Might 2018

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How To Make Baked Ziti

Serves eight to 10

What You Want


  • For the pasta and sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1

    medium yellow onion, finely chopped

  • Three cloves

    garlic, finely chopped

  • half of teaspoon

    crimson pepper flakes (non-compulsory)

  • five cups

    marinara sauce (about 46 oz.)

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning

  • Freshly floor black pepper

  • 1 pound

    dried ziti or penne pasta

  • For meeting:
  • 1 cup

    whole-milk ricotta cheese

  • half of cup

    finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided

  • 1/four teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • eight oz.

    shredded mozzarella cheese (about 2 cups), divided

  • Apparatus
  • Knife

  • Slicing board

  • Picket spoon or rubber spatula

  • Massive pot or Dutch oven

  • Strainer or colander

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Massive skillet or frying pan

  • Cheese grater

  • 9×13-inch baking dish


  1. Warmth the oven. Organize a rack in the midst of the oven and warmth to 375°F. Prepare dinner the pasta and sauce whilst the oven is heating.

  2. Boil the water. Deliver a big pot of closely salted water to a boil over medium-high warmth. In the meantime, make the sauce.

  3. Prepare dinner the onions and garlic. Warmth the oil in a big pot or Dutch oven over medium warmth till shimmering. Upload the onion, garlic, and pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper, and cook dinner, stirring from time to time, till softened, about 12 mins.

  4. Simmer the sauce. Upload the marinara and 1 teaspoon salt, stir to mix, and produce to a simmer. Take away from the warmth.

  5. Prepare dinner the pasta. When the water is boiling, upload the pasta and cook dinner till simply delicate. Whilst the pasta is cooking, make the ricotta filling.

  6. Make the ricotta filling. Stir the ricotta, 1/four cup of the Parmesan, and salt in combination in a small bowl; put aside.

  7. Drain the pasta. When the pasta is able, drain it in a colander or strainer.

  8. Sauce the pasta. Go back the pasta to the now-empty pot. Upload part of the sauce (about Three cups) and stir till the pasta is well-coated. Style and season with salt and pepper as wanted.

  9. Fold within the ricotta. Upload the ricotta combination to the pasta and fold it in, leaving large wallet of ricotta right here and there.

  10. Layer the pasta. Switch part of the pasta combination right into a 9×13-inch baking dish and unfold into an excellent layer. Lightly sprinkle with part of the mozzarella. Most sensible with the remainder pasta in an excellent layer.

  11. Layer the sauce and cheese. Pour the remainder sauce over the pasta and unfold into an excellent layer. Sprinkle the outside lightly with the remainder mozzarella and ultimate 1/four cup Parmesan.

  12. Bake the casserole. Bake exposed till the sides are effervescent and the cheese is totally melted and browned in spots, about 30 mins.

  13. Cool the casserole. Take away the baking dish to a twine rack and let cool 15 mins prior to serving.

Recipe Notes

Diversifications: Be happy so as to add 2 cups of cooked greens or a pound of cooked floor meat or sausage to the sauce. This Italian sausage and peppers baked ziti model could also be scrumptious.

Make forward: This dish will also be assembled and refrigerated, coated in foil, as much as 2 days upfront. Bake coated for 15 mins, then discover and bake for 30 mins extra.

Two smaller casseroles: This will also be ready in 2 (8×8-inch) baking dishes as an alternative, which is superb if you wish to freeze part for a long term meal.

Freezing: Baked ziti will also be frozen proper within the baking dish for as much as 2 months, simply let it cool totally and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil first. Bake immediately from the freezer coated with foil for 1 hour, then discover and bake for 15 mins extra.

Garage: Leftovers will also be saved in an hermetic container within the fridge for as much as five days.

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