|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 21g||27%|
|Saturated Fat 8g||42%|
|Total Carbohydrate 17g||6%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||11%|
|Total Sugars 7g|
|Vitamin C 25mg||126%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
There are endless versions of baked ziti, all wonderfully delicious. Some are covered in a generous layer of cheese and moistened by a tomato-based sauce with ground beef, but others are made without meat and with other variations on the sauce, like pesto or sour cream. Each cook has a favorite combination, the perfect ratio of cheeses, and their preferred sauce, but it's fair to say that all baked zitis make a wonderful and easy weeknight dinner, as you can pretty much put in it anything you'd like that you have at hand. Our ziti casserole is a flavorful combination of seasoned tomato sauce with ground beef, baked to perfection with a melty mozzarella cheese topping.
Traditionally served in Southern Italy back in the day when the bride, the zita, needed to present her new husband a lunch, ziti comes from the slang term that referred to such young ladies. Baked ziti was also part of the nuptial meal. The Americanized version has added and subtracted ingredients, but nowadays anything and everything can go in such a casserole and there is no one traditional recipe.
Use any short pasta, but go for a tubular pasta as it best soaks up the sauce. Easy to prepare, assemble the night before, cover and refrigerate, and simply pop in the oven when it's time to eat. Serve with a green salad and some garlic bread.
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef, ground chuck, or ground round
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or 1 small minced clove garlic
3/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
8 ounces ziti pasta
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
Steps to Make It
Gather the ingredients.
Heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly butter a 2 1/2-quart baking dish. Bring a big pot of water to a boil.
Drizzle the olive oil in a very large skillet or sauté pan and place it over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the ground beef, onion, and green bell pepper. Cook, stirring until the onion is tender and the beef is no longer pink.
Drain off the excess fat and then add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer.
While the meat is simmering, cook the ziti in the boiling salted water until just al dente. The pasta needs to still have some bite as it will continue cooking in the oven. Set aside.
Add the cooked pasta and half of the mozzarella cheese to the pan with the meat sauce.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.
Top the casserole with the remaining mozzarella cheese.
Bake the ziti for 25 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Serve hot and enjoy!
Make Ahead or Freeze
This is a great dish for a make-ahead dinner. Simply assemble the casserole and wrap it tightly in foil. Refrigerate overnight and allow the dish to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking as directed.
For freezing, assemble the casserole in a freezer-safe dish but do not bake. Cover tightly with foil or plastic wrap and keep for up to 3 months. Allow the dish to thaw overnight before baking it as directed. Add extra mozzarella cheese and a drizzle of olive oil if needed.
There are as many recipes for ziti as there are cooks. Here are some of our favorite takes on this dish:
- Add an extra 8-ounce can of tomato sauce for saucier casserole, or 1 cup of heavy cream. In either case, adjust the seasoning accordingly.
- Replace the ground beef with 1 pound of bulk Italian sausage, ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground venison. Brown as directed with the onion and bell pepper.
- Replace the mozzarella cheese with a pizza cheese blend, an Italian cheese blend, or cheddar and mozzarella. For a cheesier version, sprinkle with 3/4 cup of Parmesan on top of the mozzarella layer.
- Add 2 cups of steamed broccoli or cauliflower florets into the mixture. Alternatively, add 3 cups of baby spinach into the pan at the same time as you're adding the tomato sauce.