Five ingredients. One prep time. Three meals. What does it add up to? Easy baked ziti. I make a big batch of baked ziti one night that fills one, 9 x 13″ pan (for dinner that night and leftovers the next), then I fill a 9×9″ aluminum foil pan that I freeze and save to eat a couple weeks later. The only hard part about this meal is mixing all of the ingredients together before putting ‘em in the pans (hint: grab your biggest bowl).

A few notes on baked ziti:

•The noodles really do make a difference. Forget the penne, rigatoni, or even macaroni, ziti pasta is best.
•This dish is simple to make meatless. Skip the Italian sausage and use roasted veggies or spinach.
•I often add in spinach to this dish. The kids don’t seem to notice, plus I really like spinach.
•You can add as many different kinds of cheeses as you want–the last time I made this I put in Truffle Cheese (thank you Trader Joe’s!).
Baked ziti has all of the same flavors as lasagna, without all the work. So if your family likes lasagna, they’ll love baked ziti.

Recipe

Prep time: 25 minutes + 40 minutes baking + 15 minutes cooling

Servings: 10+

Ingredients

1 16-ounce package ziti pasta

1 16-ounce container ricotta cheese

3 cups mozzarella cheese, divided

2 24-ounce jars spaghetti sauce

1 pound sweet Italian sausage (optional, but recommended)

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions

  1. Cook the Italian sausage, breaking up the meat into bite-sized pieces with the spatula.
  2. Cook the pasta according the package directions. Note: this recipe works best with ziti cooked to al dente, make sure not to overcook the pasta.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the cooked pasta and sausage, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, all of the ricotta cheese and both jars of spaghetti sauce.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Coat a 9×13” pan with baking spray. Pour the pasta mixture into the pan and top with the remaining mozzarella cheese and additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.
  6. Place the filled 9×13” pan on a cookie sheet to make it easier to get in and out of the oven. (The pan will be heavy!)
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cheese becomes golden brown.
  8. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

*We have a winner to the Parents Need to Eat Too cookbook giveaway! Laura will be receiving her copy soon.

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