If you’re a pasta lover like me, then you’re in for a treat! Today, I’m sharing the recipe for the Best Baked Ziti. This classic Italian-American dish is the epitome of comfort food, featuring layers of penne pasta, rich tomato sauce, creamy ricotta cheese, and a generous sprinkle of mozzarella and Parmesan. It’s a dish that’s perfect for family gatherings, potlucks, or whenever you’re craving some serious comfort food.
Who Is This Recipe For?
This recipe is for anyone who enjoys indulging in hearty and flavorful Italian cuisine. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner in the kitchen, making the Best Baked Ziti is a breeze. It’s also a crowd-pleaser, so if you’re hosting a dinner party or a casual get-together, this dish will undoubtedly impress your guests.
The great thing about this recipe is that it’s highly customizable. You can adjust the level of spiciness with red pepper flakes, add some veggies for extra nutrition, or even make it vegetarian by skipping the meat. So, whether you’re cooking for a family of picky eaters or a group of adventurous foodies, this recipe is a winner.
Ingredients You’ll Need
Before we start cooking, let’s gather all the ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 (25-ounce) jars of pasta sauce
- 15 ounces of tomato sauce
- 1 pound of UNCOOKED penne pasta
- 15 ounces of ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- ⅓ cup of freshly chopped basil
- 2 cups of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
Now, let’s get cooking! Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating the Best Baked Ziti:
- Prepare the Ricotta Mixture: In a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, eggs, and freshly chopped basil. Stir well until everything is thoroughly mixed.
- Mix the Sauces: In a large bowl, blend both jars of pasta sauce with the tomato sauce. This creates a rich and flavorful base for your ziti.
- Grate the Parmesan Cheese: Use your grater to grate the Parmesan cheese and set it aside for later use.
- Grease the Slow Cooker: To prevent sticking, make sure to grease the inside of your 6-quart slow cooker generously.
- Layering: Start by adding 2 ⅓ cups of the pasta sauce mixture to the bottom of the slow cooker. Next, add ⅓ of the uncooked penne pasta.
- Ricotta Layer: Dot on half of the ricotta mixture and spread it evenly across the pasta. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan cheese (1 cup) on top.
- Repeat the Layers: Continue layering by adding another 2 ⅓ cups of sauce mixture, followed by an additional ⅓ of the uncooked penne. Dot on the remaining ricotta mixture and spread it out. Finish this layer with the remaining Parmesan cheese (1 cup).
- Final Layers: Add the last ⅓ of the uncooked penne, and top it all off with the remaining 2 ⅓ cups of sauce mixture.
- Cooking Time: Cover the slow cooker and set it to cook on high for 2-3 hours, or until the pasta reaches the desired al dente texture. We recommend around 2 ½ hours for that perfect bite.
- Melt the Mozzarella: In the final few minutes of cooking, sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese on top of the ziti and allow it to melt beautifully.
- Serve and Enjoy: Once the cheese is melted and bubbly, your Best Baked Ziti is ready to be served. You can enjoy it on its own or topped with red pepper flakes for some heat. Don’t forget the garlic bread!
If you have any leftovers (which is rare because this dish is so good), store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The ziti will stay fresh for up to three days. To reheat, place it in the oven at 350°F until heated through, or use the microwave for a quicker option.
Food and Drink Pairings
Pair your Best Baked Ziti with a fresh green salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette for a balanced meal. For drinks, a glass of red wine or sparkling water with lemon complements the flavours perfectly.