Ricotta Baked Ziti

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Pack with your pasta cheeses, meats, and vegetables to create this Ricotta Baked Ziti—then beam with pride as you serve it to your adoring (and salivating) family.

Ricotta Baked Ziti featured image below

You’re on the verge of a hefty Italian meal. Ground beef, bacon, oodles of veggies and cheeses, all set atop a bed of ziti pasta. It’s not for the faint-hearted (or faint-wristed!). But what if I told you this all comes together in 20 minutes? It’s true. And every time I make this recipe, it gets even easier and easier, and I fall in love with it just that bit more.

My family have also fallen in love with it. Some are all about that meat and go hunting for the bits of bacon scattered throughout. Others love the cheese and request a portion with slightly singed cheese on top. Still others are pasta fiends and, I swear, would eat it even if I added a bag of sand to my marinara sauce.

So this is all to say that nothing gives me a greater sense of satisfaction than serving this Ricotta Baked Ziti to such an appreciative crew. Mind you, I’ve made pasta dishes before—Easy Baked Ziti and the Best Baked Spaghetti—but this recipe amps it up with its inclusion of cheeses and meats. Try it and savor not only its taste but that sense of pride when you carry it to a dinner table filled with adoring fans.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. dry ziti
  • 1 lb. sausage meat
  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp Italian herbs
  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • ½ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups mozzarella, shredded
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup Parmesan, finely shredded
Ricotta Baked Ziti ingredients

How To Make Ricotta Baked Ziti // The Steps

Step 1: Boil the ziti in 2 quarts of salted water for 5 minutes until al dente. Drain the water then toss the cooked ziti in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.

Ricotta Baked Ziti step 1

Step 2: Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large heavy-based pot, drizzle the rest of the olive oil on MED-HIGH heat. Add the sausage meat and bacon to brown for 5–8 minutes.

Ricotta Baked Ziti step 2

Step 3: Add the onion, garlic, celery, and carrots into the pot. Sauté for 5–8 minutes.

Ricotta Baked Ziti step 3

Step 4: Pour in the marinara sauce, Italian herbs, fresh basil, and a pinch of salt and pepper and stir. Turn down the heat and simmer for another 5 minutes then turn off the heat.

Ricotta Baked Ziti step 4

Step 5: Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, ricotta, half the mozzarella, and a pinch of salt and pepper together.

Ricotta Baked Ziti step 5

Step 6: Pour the cooked ziti into the pot with the meat sauce then mix together.

Ricotta Baked Ziti step 6

Step 7: Pour half of the pasta and sauce into a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish. Spread half the egg and cheese mix all over. Layer on the rest of the pasta. Top with the rest of the egg and cheese mix and then sprinkle the other half of the mozzarella and the Parmesan.

Ricotta Baked Ziti step 7

Step 8: Bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling.

Ricotta Baked Ziti step 8

Top Tips For a Perfect Ricotta Baked Ziti //

  • Cook your pasta al dente, as it will continue to cook in the oven.
  • Cover the dish with foil to prevent the top layer of cheese from burning.
  • Let it sit for 5–10 minutes after taking it out of the oven to let it cool and its ingredients set and meld together.
  • Line the bottom of the pot with a layer of marinara sauce to prevent the pasta from sticking.
  • Use a big enough pot (the 9″ x 13″ is ideal). If you go smaller, you risk the ziti overflowing and making a mess of your oven.
Ricotta Baked Ziti featured image above

FAQs //

How do I prevent my pasta from turning mushy?

First, cook it al dente, so remove it from the boiling water a few minutes earlier than you normally would. Second, cool it off under cold water to halt the cooking process. Then drain as much as possible.

My ziti becomes a mess when I try to serve. How do I prevent this?

Let it cool for 5–10 minutes. The ingredients will firm up and make it easier to serve.

How do I prevent the cheese from burning?

Cover it with tin foil. To prevent the cheese from burning, “tent” it by propping up its center with a toothpick. Doing so prevents the foil from touching the cheese and removing it.

Any ingredients you recommend I add for some pizzazz?

Add nutmeg, sun-dried tomatoes, and some greens in the form of kale or spinach.

What sort of ground beef should I be using?

You want something flavorful, so avoid the lean and extra-lean varieties. The greater the fat content, the greater the taste.

Ricotta Baked Ziti featured image below

Serving Suggestions //

Simple Challah Bread: Perfect for soaking up all that marinara sauce.

Roasted Carrots with Chardonnay: If you don’t think the carrots in the ziti will be enough and are itching to use that half-bottle of Chardonnay in your fridge.

Arugula Caprese Salad with Lemon Basil Dressing: A light, Italian dish that brings color (and more cheese!) to your meal.

Kale Caesar Salad with Parmesan Crisp Croutons: Another crisp salad that complements the Parmesan in the ziti.

How to Prep and Store Ricotta Baked Ziti //

You can prep this meal by cooking the pasta and storing it with the ricotta mixture in an airtight container in the fridge. Or you can make the dish completely then store it in the fridge covered with tin foil or the pot lid for up to 4 days. The same thing goes for leftovers. Let it cool then store in an airtight container (or the pot it was cooked in) in the fridge. You can also freeze the dish for up to 3 months. Let it thaw overnight then warm in the microwave or oven.

Ricotta Baked Ziti featured image below
Ricotta Baked Ziti featured image below

Ricotta Baked Ziti

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Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 10

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. dry ziti
  • 1 lb. sausage meat
  • 4 slices bacon diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic crushed
  • 2 sticks celery diced
  • 1 large carrot peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp Italian herbs
  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • ½ cup fresh basil chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups Mozzarella shredded
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup Parmesan finely shredded

Instructions
 

  • Boil the ziti in 2 quarts of salted water for 5 minutes until al dente. Drain the water then toss the cooked ziti in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large heavy-based pot, drizzle the rest of the olive oil on MED-HIGH heat. Add the sausage meat and bacon to brown for 5–8 minutes.
  • Add the onion, garlic, celery, and carrots into the pot. Sauté for 5–8 minutes.
  • Pour in the marinara sauce, Italian herbs, fresh basil, and a pinch of salt and pepper and stir. Turn down the heat and simmer for another 5 minutes then turn off the heat.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, ricotta, half the mozzarella, and a pinch of salt and pepper together.
  • Pour the cooked ziti into the pot with the meat sauce then mix together.
  • Pour half of the pasta and sauce into a 9" x 13" casserole dish. Spread half the egg and cheese mix all over. Layer on the rest of the pasta. Top with the rest of the egg and cheese mix and then sprinkle the other half of the mozzarella and the Parmesan.
  • Bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling.
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