Cheesy Baked Ziti

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No longer a pasta just for weddings in Naples, this Cheesy Baked Ziti will have you fielding proposals left and right. It’s just that good.

Cheesy Baked Ziti featured image above

If there was another name for comfort food, it would be baked ziti. There’s just something about pasta, sauce, cheese, and vegetables that just has me wrapping up in my favorite blanket and hunkering down for the evening.

Ziti is a type of pasta that is served as the first course at weddings in Naples. The pasta gets its name from the word Zita, which roughly translates to bride, and is often referred to as the brides’ pasta. Gotta love a wedding where the bride has her own pasta!

Let’s be honest, the bride might not be opting for this cheesy baked ziti (they are wearing an expensive gown after all), but your family and friends will love this dish and it will appeal to all your picky eaters as you can replace certain veggies with others as no one is married to these in particular. This dish is also great for people on the go. It can be prepared ahead and requires limited time in the kitchen to prep it. If you’re looking for a baked ziti with meat for your meat lovers, go ahead and go for this Chicken Parmesan Baked Ziti.

What makes Ziti…Ziti? //

If you’re like me you’re probably thinking ziti looks an awful lot like penne or rigatoni. But I found out there are a lot of differences between these three pastas. I’ll be honest, who knew that each pasta was so nuanced? Keeping things basic, here’s how you can tell these three cylindrical pastas apart:

  • Penne has the most obvious difference as it is cut on an angle and has a large surface area.
  • Ziti is shorter and thicker than penne and works best in chunkier sauces.
  • Rigatoni is the shortest and widest of the three and is sometimes slightly curved.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 Onion finely diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic crushed
  • 2 sticks Celery chopped
  • 2 cups Mushrooms sliced
  • 1 pound Ziti cooked
  • 4 cups Marinara sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tsp Italian Herbs
  • 8 oz Mascarpone
  • ¼ cup Fresh Basil chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup Parmesan finely shredded
  • 8 oz Mozzarella sliced
Cheesy Baked Ziti ingredients

Preparation Steps

Step 1: In a skillet over medium to high heat, drizzle in the olive oil then sauté the onion, garlic, celery, and mushrooms for 5 – 8 minutes.

Cheesy Baked Ziti step 1

Step 2: Pour the cooked ziti, sauteed mushroom mix, marinara sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Italian herbs, mascarpone, fresh chopped basil, a pinch of salt and pepper, and half the parmesan into a large bowl and mix until it is all well coated.

Cheesy Baked Ziti step 2

Step 3: Pour the mix into a 9×13 casserole dish and spread out.

Cheesy Baked Ziti step 3

Step 4: Place the sliced mozzarella over the pasta and then sprinkle with parmesan. Bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling.

Cheesy Baked Ziti step 4

Top Tips For a Perfect Cheesy Baked Ziti

  • For the best pasta results cook the ziti until it is just al dente. This means there will be a bite to the pasta but it will prevent it from becoming mushy while baking.
  • Use good quality cheeses. This will elevate the cheesy baked ziti experience.
  • Want to get even more fancy? Try making your own Tomato Sauce!
  • Try to coat the pasta evenly to make sure each bite has all the cheesy goodness.
Cheesy Baked Ziti featured image below

FAQs

Can I cover my baked ziti while it is baking?

To prevent the pasta from ‘steaming’ and allowing the top to brown, it should be baked uncovered. Just make sure all the noodles are covered in sauce to prevent them from drying out.

Can I use a different type of pasta?

Don’t have ziti on hand? Don’t stress! Just use any of the other two I mentioned earlier, though penne will probably work the best as the alternative to ziti.

Can I make this cheesy baked ziti beforehand?

Yup! This dish can be assembled, covered, and stored in the fridge for up to two days before baking. It can even be frozen ahead of time for up to three months.

Cheesy Baked Ziti featured image below

Serving Suggestions

Remember this is comfort food and is a meal all on its own. So if you’re looking to add a little something on the side, it is best to keep it light and breezy. Salads like this Kale Caesar is always a good option, or try a homemade garlic bread courtesy of this easy and delicious Garlic Butter recipe. And while the pasta is loaded with veggies, you can never have too many! Who doesn’t love a side of grilled green beans or grilled asparagus?

How to Store

See the FAQ section for how to prep and store ahead of time, but if you have leftovers, this cheesy baked ziti is good in the fridge for three to four days. Just make sure it’s cooled completely before you store it in the fridge.

If you are looking to freeze your leftovers, after it cools completely, place it in a freezer-safe container for up to three months. When reheating the frozen cheesy baked ziti, remove it from the freezer, thaw overnight in the fridge, and reheat in the oven at 350 degrees until heated through.

Cheesy Baked Ziti featured image below
Cheesy Baked Ziti featured image below

Cheesy Baked Ziti

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 Onion finely diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic crushed
  • 2 sticks Celery chopped
  • 2 cups Mushrooms sliced
  • 1 pound Ziti cooked
  • 4 cups Marinara sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tsp Italian Herbs
  • 8 oz Mascarpone
  • ¼ cup Fresh Basil chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup Parmesan finely shredded
  • 8 oz Mozzarella sliced

Instructions
 

  • In a skillet over medium to high heat drizzle in the olive oil then saute the onion, garlic, celery, and mushrooms for 5 – 8 minutes.
  • Pour the cooked ziti, sauteed mushroom mix, marinara sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Italian herbs, mascarpone, fresh chopped basil, a pinch of salt and pepper, and half the parmesan into a large bowl and mix until it is all well coated.
  • Pour the mix into a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish and spread out.
  • Place the sliced mozzarella over the pasta and then sprinkle with parmesan. Bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling.
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