When I’m in the mood for tomato-based Italian pasta that’s a little more interesting (i.e. baked and cheesy) than spaghetti, I often turn to this classic baked ziti. This a great use for my 15-minute Simple Meat Marinara Sauce without requiring too much more effort, as most of the work is done by placing a baking dish in oven for a 35-minute sauna.
The beauty of baked ziti is that each bite features a different flavor, from rich tomato and meat flavors to creamy ricotta and mozzarella, while also providing textural contrasts between the saucy underside and the Parmesan-crusted, slightly crunchy topping. But even more importantly, especially for these lazy winter days when the sun departs long before the work day ends, this dish tastes even better reheated the next day, or the day after that, or frozen and reheated a few months later.
1/2 lb. ziti pasta
4 c. simple meat marinara sauce or your favorite vegetarian marinara
6 oz. ricotta
1/2 c. parmesan
4 oz. mozzarella, diced small
In medium pot, bring water to boil. Cook ziti for 3 minutes less than cooking time on box, as it will continue cooking in the oven and you don’t want it to turn out soggy. Drain, and rinse with cool water to halt the cooking.
Spoon 1 c. marinara sauce on bottom of baking 1 1/2 to 2-quart baking dish. Evenly pour half of the pasta on top, then spread ricotta on top, and sprinkle with mozzarella. Pour another 1 c. marinara on top, then remaining pasta, then remaining marinara. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Do ahead: cover dish with foil, and ziti can be refrigerated overnight; remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Bake ziti for 35 minutes until center is hot, sauce is bubbling around the edges, and cheese topping is lightly golden. Cover, and let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Can be stored for 3 days in airtight, refrigerated container, or up to 3 months in the freezer.