Easy Baked Ziti

photo 2 copy 3Easy Baked Ziti

Our house has always been the hangout house. The one the kids like to come to and know that they’ll be fed and cared for. I’ve always been glad to be that mom that could be there for my girls and all their friends. We’ve hosted lots of study sessions and if there was a school project it was usually done at our house. One time in particular I was having some of my oldest daughters classmates over to work on a project. I always had a pantry full of after school snacks, but wasn’t sure what I was going to do about dinner. To my surprise one of the moms dropped off her daughter with a wonderful Baked Ziti for me to serve the girls for dinner. It was such a nice surprise and I appreciated her thoughtfulness. We loved the Baked Ziti so much that I asked for the recipe and we’ve been making it ever since. I added a bit more sauce and some seasoning to the original recipe to punch it up. It’s so easy to make, can be made ahead, is great for leftovers and has always been a hit to whoever we have served it to. Kids really love. I’ve served it at dinner parties I have for the girls and their friends where I’ll prepare it with Cesar Salad and Garlic Bread. I try to serve as many vegetables as possible for my family so I’ll make it with some steamed veggies and a salad for them. I have also made this with gluten free pasta and it is just as good, but you have to eat that right away because I find the gluten free pasta does not reheat well. This is such a lifesaver on those busy days, just make it ahead and reheat when you need it. Here’s the Joy version of the recipe…

photo 1Simple ingredients: Penne pasta, 2 jars of your favorite pasta sauce, 1 lb Mozzarella Cheese (I use part skim), 15 oz Ricotta Cheese (I use low fat), Sea Salt, Dried Basil, Dried Oregano, and Cracked Black Pepper.

photo 2Β Prepare Pasta as directed on package. While that is cooking slice mozzarella into approximately 1/4 inch pieces. I got 11 slices out of mine this time, usually I’ll get 11 or 12 slices, but if you get less it’s fine.

photo 1 copyWhen Penne Pasta is done cooking, drain, but do not rinse. Put Penne Pasta in a large mixing bowl. Add Ricotta cheese and mix into pasta.

photo 2 copy

Add 1/2 jar of Pasta Sauce to Penne Pasta mixture and season with dried Basil, dried Oregano, Sea Salt and Pepper (I just sprinkle it on).Β  Mix all together.

photo 3Layer 1/2 of Penne Pasta mixture into a 9 x 13 casserole pan.

photo 4Layer half of the Mozzarella cheese evenly on Pasta.

photo 5Pour 1/2 jar of Pasta Sauce evenly over Pasta and Cheese.

photo 1 copy 2Repeat layers again. You will be left with 1/2 a jar of Pasta Sauce that you will not use.

Cover with aluminum foil. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 20 more minutes.

photo 3 copyFresh out of the oven.

photo 4 copyLet cool for a bit and serve.

photo 1 copy 3I served it with some lovely steamed broccoli and a mixed green salad with balsamic vinaigrette. It’s also nice with some fresh Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Easy Baked Ziti

Ingredients:

  • 14.5 oz Penne Pasta
  • 15 oz Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 lb Mozzarella Cheese
  • 2 Jars of your favorite Pasta Sauce
  • *Dried Oregano (optional)
  • *Dried Basil (optional)
  • *Sea Salt (optional)
  • *Cracked Black Pepper (optional)

*the seasoning is optional but I think it adds a nice flavor.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have a 9 x 13 casserole pan to bake in. Prepare Pasta as directed on package. Slice Mozzarella cheese into approximately 1/4 inch slices evenly. When Pasta is done, drain but don’t rinse. Put Pasta in a large bowl and add Ricotta Cheese. Mix well. Add 1/2 jar Pasta Sauce and season with Dried Oregano, Dried Basil, Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper to taste, mix well. Put half of Pasta mixture into 9 x 13 pan. Layer with 1/2 of Mozzarella cheese. Spread 1/2 jar of Pasta Sauce evenly over layers. Repeat layers one more time. You will be left with 1/2 a jar of Pasta Sauce that you won’t need. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Take off foil and bake for 20 more minutes. Cool a bit before serving.

Hope you enjoy this easy and delicious recipe. It really is a great meal to make ahead of time. Let me know if you give it a try.

All the best,

Joy

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