My Famous (Yes, It’s Famous) Baked Ziti

So, uh, I hate to brag (just kidding, no I don’t) but my baked ziti is pretty stellar. Just ask my Mima.

I went through a few iterations of this recipe before developing the recipe I have now—mostly because I couldn’t find the recipe I started with and had to make guesses based on what I remembered from the original. But I’ve worked on perfecting it for a while and I think I’ve made it as good as it’ll get.

Ingredients

  • 1 box penne pasta (I find it holds the meat/sauce/cheese better, but if you want actual ziti, go for it)
  • 1-1.5 lbs lean ground beef (I usually get 97% lean if I can find it)
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 1 15oz. tub ricotta cheese
  • ½-ish cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 jars pasta sauce (my favorite is Prego Heart Smart Ricotta Parmesan)
  • 1 egg
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Black pepper

Step 1. Brown ground beef in a pan; when browned, add sauce and let simmer. Meanwhile, boil the pasta according to the directions on the box. If you want, you can under-cook it a little bit—this will make it a little tougher once it’s baked, which will help it support all the meat and cheese and stuff. Either way, though, it’ll be fine—it just comes down to personal preference.

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Step 2. While the meat and sauce are simmering and the pasta is boiling, make your cheese mixture: your 15 oz. tub of ricotta (you can see it holds its shape quite nicely!), 2 cups mozzarella, half cup (ish) of Parmesan, 1 egg, about 1-2 tsp. parsley, about 1-2 tsp. oregano, and black pepper to taste. Feel free to add any other spices you might like—I occasionally add some garlic powder because garlic, yum.

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Step 3. Split the cheese mixture in half in two bowls. When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it and then mix it (while it’s still hot) with one half of cheese mixture so that it is well distributed and covers all the pasta. The cheese should be all melty and stringy and delicious-looking.

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Step 4. Layer ingredients in a deep lasagna pan as follows:

  • 1.5 cups sauce
  • Half of pasta mixture
  • Remaining cheese mixture
  • 2ish cups sauce
  • Remaining pasta mixture
  • Remaining sauce
  • Top with 1-2 cups of mozzarella and Parmesan to taste

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Step 5. Bake for 30 minutes at 350º.

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Step 6. Gorge yourself on delicious baked ziti! Don’t forget the garlic bread!

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(If you want a vegetarian option, you can just remove the meat and pour the sauce into the layers straight from the jar. It still comes out great but I think the meat adds a nice dimension to it.)

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