Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Recipe for Baked Ziti

This recipe--in various incarnations--has been in my family for years. This super simple but oh-so-tasty dish is perfect for Sunday (or any day!)  dinner on one of those chilly days--when you crave the comfort of a one-meal dish that will leave all you and your guests sated. As in most recipes, this is a base: you should vary it according to you/your guests' food preferences. I'm lucky enough to live near a great place that makes homemade mozzarella--and Italian-style cheese and parsley sausage, and homemade ricotta. (Quality of ingredients is always important!) This being said, this recipe still makes mighty flavorful baked ziti--even when some of the items are not homemade. Serve with a leafy green salad (I just made it with baby spinach, orange sections, toasted unsalted cashews, and a light vinaigrette) and your favorite crusty Italian bread, fresh grated parmesan, and--for the 21-and-over crowd--your favorite Italian red wine.

Makes about 8 to 10  servings

1 pound dried ziti pasta
1 pound Italian sausage, removed from casings, crumbled and browned, (or 1 pound ground beef, crumbled and browned)
One 15-ounce container ricotta cheese (or, if you can find homemade ricotta, that's even better!) 
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 egg
1/4 cup parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound fresh mozzarella, half cut into 1/2-inch cubes and half thinly sliced
3 1/2 cups homemade or best-quality (your favorite!)  marinara sauce 
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper or to taste
Fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously, and boil the pasta until al dente, tender but still slightly firm. Drain and set aside.

Mix ricotta, egg, parsley, 1 and 1/2 cups chopped mozzarella, and parmesan in a large bowl.

Mix cooked sausage and pasta in with ricotta mixture and add 1 cup of the sauce. Transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with 2 more cups of the sauce, and the mozzarella.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Let sit for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves, cut, and serve. 

In my parents' kitchen--sprinkling my ziti with fresh basil!
(Photo thanks to my brother, Peter Gargagliano) 


  1. This looks so similiar to my own recipe, except for the egg. I'm going to try it your way this weekend. It looks yummy .... thanks Darcie

    1. Let me know how you like it! You know the beauty of sharing recipes is learning new ways of making something.... Always like to hear new variations! Thanks, Darcie! xoxo