This Baked Ziti is arguably one of my most popular recipes – and for good reason! It’s one of the recipes that I make for my own family most often and it’s an excellent fit for so many occasions. While I’ve entertained with this dish as it feeds a crowd easily, the times I make it most often are when I’m taking a meal to a friend.
Whether they’ve just had a baby, been sick, or just need a pick-me-up, this Baked Ziti is my go-to. When I take someone a Baked Ziti I usually bake it at home then arrive with it warm and ready to eat (and usually bring a Caesar Salad and Garlic Bread with a pint of ice cream for dessert). Or if I know they won’t be eating it that day, I’ll wrap it tightly and include instructions for freezing on top of the foil with a sharpie. They go something like this:
THAWING INSTRUCTIONS for Baked Ziti
Freeze tightly covered for up to 3 weeks. To cook, pull ziti from the freezer and defrost in your refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 375º F then transfer ziti to the oven (still covered with foil) for 25 minutes. Carefully remove foil, increase oven to broil and broil for 5 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Enjoy!
One last note on this favorite recipe. It’s written as a vegetarian recipe, but about half of the time I make this recipe I’ll add 1 lb. of sweet Italian sausage to satisfy the meat lovers in my life. To make this happen I simply brown the sausage in a large skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until golden brown and crispy. Then I’ll transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. I’ll stir the cooked sausage into the sauce mixture just before combining with the pasta.
Do you have a go-to dish for taking to someone who needs a meal? This is by far my favorite!
This is my go-to meal when a friend is welcoming home a new baby or needs a helping hand with dinner, and feeds a large group so easily! It’s also #meatlessmonday friendly, as the sausage is totally optional.
1 pound cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 pound ziti or rigatoni
1 (32 oz.) jar marinara sauce – I like Rao’s
½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
cracked black pepper
¾ teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces mozzarella cheese , cut into ¼-inch pieces
Cooked Italian sausage, optional – see directions below
Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large pot over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and add pasta; cook, stirring occasionally until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through about 7 minutes. Drain pasta and leave in a colander (do not wash the pot).
Add heavy cream to the pot and whisk in cornstarch over medium heat. Bring to simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup marinara sauce, basil, and ¾ cup mozzarella, then stir to combine. (*if using Italian sausage, add here) Add pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer pasta mixture to 13- by 9-inch baking dish and spread remaining marinara sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle remaining ¾ cup mozzarella and remaining ½ cup Parmesan over top. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
Remove foil and increase heat to broil. Broil for 5 minutes until golden and bubbly. Cool for 10-15 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.
*You can easily add 1 lb. of sweet Italian sausage to this recipe. Brown the sausage in a large skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until golden brown and crispy. Then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Stir the cooked sausage into the sauce mixture just before combining with the pasta.
Hi, I’m Kelsey! New here? It’s so nice to meet you!
My mission is to help you feel inspired to cook a little more and gather those that you love most around your table.