Talk about comfort food at its finest!  Baked Ziti is a classic pasta bake that is loaded with multiple kinds of melted cheese, sizzling red sauce, and tender noodles.  You can substitute the red sauce for a meat sauce, similar to a Bolognese, but I think the dish has plenty of flavor without the added meat.

Ziti is a tube-shaped pasta, very similar to penne.  The only different is how the noodles are cut, in a straight line instead of at a slant.  You can find Ziti in the pasta aisle.  If for some reason you can’t find it, penne noodles are a great substitute.  The noodles are cooked al dente and are a little firm because they soften up while baking.  The cheese and sauce fills the inside of each noodles and sticks to the outside.  This is a hearty meal!

The recipe can be found here.

Start by preheating the oven to 375 degrees.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions.  You want the noodles to be al dente or firm.  You don’t want soft and squishy noodles because they will continue to cook while baking and will soften up during that time.  It is OK if you cook the noodles slightly too long, the dish will still taste great!  Drain the noodles and set aside.

While the noodles are boiling, make the sauce.  This is a meatless sauce, but you can add ground beef or sausage if you prefer.  I personally don’t think the dish needs the added ingredient but it’s all about personal preference.

Add olive oil to a large skillet or pot and heat over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add the marinara sauce to the skillet and stir to combine.  Be careful not to splatter!  Continue to heat the sauce until warmed through.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, egg, and ½ cup parmesan cheese.  Set aside.

Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a 9×13 pan or you can spray it with cooking spray.  You don’t need a lot, just a little drizzle!

Pour HALF of the cooked noodles and HALF of the sauce into the pan.  Stir to combine.  You’re going to assemble the Ziti in layers.

Add small dollops of the ricotta mixture evenly over the top.  You do want to use small amounts, or it won’t get super melty and spread evenly while baking.  Make sure to only use HALF of the ricotta mixture and save the rest for the second layer.

Top with 6 slices of provolone cheese, in a single layer over the top.

Sprinkle HALF of the mozzarella cheese evenly over the top.  You can use a little less mozzarella if it looks like a lot of cheese.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients.  Add the other half of the cooked noodles on top.  Then, pour the remaining sauce over the noodles.  Carefully spread the sauce over the top of the noodles until all noodles are coated (or mostly coated).

Use the remaining ricotta mixture to add small dollops evenly over the top of the noodles and sauce.

Top with the remaining 6 slices of provolone cheese, in an even layer.

Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese evenly over the top.  Again, you can cut back on the mozzarella cheese a bit if you think it’s too much cheese.

Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top (completely optional).  Bake, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown and melted, and the Ziti is heated through.  You can also place the Ziti under the broiler for a few minutes to get a golden-brown crust.

Serve warm.  Scoop heaping spoonful’s onto plates and garnish with parmesan cheese.  Chopped parsley would also make a nice garnish, and a side of garlic bread!  Enjoy!

The recipe can be found here.

This was my first time making homemade Baked Ziti and it was an instant hit!  It will definitely be in our meal rotation from time to time.  It can feed a crowd and makes great leftovers, so everyone is happy 🙂

Happy Cooking!

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