Baked Ziti is more than just baked pasta Bolognese…it’s big, juicy baked pasta packed with flavor from a healthy dose of seasoning and topped with lots of cheese. Comfort food, simple enough for midweek but worth it.
Bonus: The Perfect Frozen Meal!
Let’s be clear here – this isn’t just another pasta cook. It’s the mother of all pasta!
While some recipes may just make baked penne with a basic Bolognese sauce, this one is made with a generous amount of seasoning that adds plenty of flavor to the meat itself, which is then seeps into the tomato sauce as it simmers…
This is one of the best pasta sauces you can make without simmering for hours like we do with our Ragu. You may never make bolognese again – make pasta with this bolognese!
What is Baked Ziti?
Baked Ziti is a classic American pasta cooked in a tomato Bolognese sauce. “Ziti” is a pasta that looks like penne except it has a smooth surface instead of ridges.
Although Baked Ziti is an Italian-American dish, it has Italian origins – baked pasta like this has been around in Italy for centuries!
There is no established method of manufacture. Some like to use all beef, others pork, and still others Italian sausage.
People use different cheeses, some make them meatless, and they all have different seasonings.
I make this version of the classic – except I like to use extra seasonings to enhance the flavor of the sauce!
What goes in Baked Ziti
Here are the ingredients for my Baked Ziti.
- Meat – The classic version uses all the beef, but if you want the stew to be even tastier, use a 50/50 mix of pork and beef (pork adds richness and flavor to the stew!) .
- Tomato Passata – While most recipes will use regular crushed tomatoes for the sauce, I opt for using Tomato Passata* – known in the US as tomato puree – because it makes this pasta more juicy. Because they are thick and creamy, they create a better sauce. There’s nothing sadder than breaking a golden cheese top to discover the dry pasta underneath!
In contrast, crushed or diced tomatoes add chunks of tomatoes to a thinner tomato sauce. It still works, but the sauce won’t be as thick or cover the pasta as pictured. To use canned tomatoes instead, it’s best to add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to help thicken.
It’s the seasoning. Fennel is optional, but if you use a combination of pork and beef for the stew, it will give it a special flavor because pork and fennel is a classic combination!
How to make it
If you know how to make bolognese, you can bake pasta at home! Once the bolognese is ready, just assemble it:
- mix some bolognese with pasta;
- pour into baking dish;
- topped with ricotta; and
- drizzle with remaining Bolognese and cover Serve with cheese.
America likes to add ricotta to lasagna type things and we don’t have that here. But out of respect for authenticity, I added ricotta to this Baked Ziti, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be going back to it now. It’s like this extra smoothness between all the goodness of tomato, meat and cheese…
What goes with Baked Ziti
Here are some suggestions for ancillary services. Of course, no one will complain if you bring garlic bread to the table, but to add vegetables to your meal, add a salad! A classic combination is arugula/rugula salad with vinaigrette and parmesan cheese.
Ah, the weekend is here. Tonight, I see myself sitting on the couch eating a bowl of baked macaroni while lazily watching something on Netflix. Here’s a Friday night worth planning!