It occurred to me today that I skipped over the most basic of Italian recipes: baked ziti. We’ve done a pumpkin version here before, but never the simple, traditional version that I grew up with. I think it’s time to change that.
Growing up, it was completely normal to eat baked ziti. In my majorly Italian town, it was a common dinner meal and was at most any large gathering as it’s easily likable. So naturally it seemed completely insane to me that Alex had never, ever eaten it. Not only had he never eaten it, but he had NO idea what it was. He even had the audacity to ask, “is it like spaghetti pie?” ….I had never heard of that and it still sounds weird to me.
I came back to school from a short trip home and my mom had wrapped up a densely packed take-out container of baked ziti that she’d made with homemade sauce and froze to ensure that it would stay cold-ish long enough for the plane trip. Alex gladly devoured the entire container in an evening and continues to be delighted with the cheesy, saucy pasta dish any time I made it. Luckily, it’s a quick meal to make, so we have it as often as he’d like.
makes 8 servings
16 ounce ziti
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups marinara sauce
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and cook the pasta until al dente. Meanwhile, add the ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, herbs, garlic, red pepper, salt and pepper to a large bowl and stir until well combined. Add the sauce and stir again. Once cooked, add the pasta to the bowl and stir to coat evenly in the sauce and cheese mixture. Pour the pasta into an oven safe baking dish (or two if needed), sprinkle the remaining mozzarella on top, and cover with foil. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 5 more minutes, or until the cheese bubbles. Serve immediately.