09 February 2009

Baked Ziti

Ziti is plural for "bridegroom" in Italian ("zito" is singular), but this recipe does not involve any newlyweds at all. A baked ziti is, as far as my extensive research shows (checking Wikipedia), an Italian-American dish. Makes sense, since I'd never heard of it before I moved to the US and I do love me some Italian food. To me, it'll always be like something out of the Sopranos - hell, Bobby Baccalieri kept his wife Karen's last frozen Ziti for ages, before Janice talked him into finally eating it. So, a ziti is essential ziti pasta (or penne, which is very similar) mixed with a tomato based sauce and cheese, baked in the oven. My recipe is a vegetarian version and as it'll last about a week in the fridge, it's usually enough for two dinners and a couple of lunches for me and Jacquie. I prefer making my own sauce, but you can always use a can of tomato sauce if you're pressed for time/like that sort of thing.

Tomato Sauce
16 oz whole peeled tomatoes (canned tomatoes are fine for this)

3 shallots
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup dry red wine
olive oil
fresh basil or oregano

Mince the shallots and put them in with some olive oil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Finely mince the garlic cloves and add. Cook another minute or so, we're looking for some translucent shallots here. Next, add the tomatoes. Chop them coarsely first. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the wine, salt and pepper to taste. Stirring occasionally, let the sauce simmer until it's reduced by half. This can take anything between ten minutes and half an hour. Once the sauce is finished, fold in the herbs (chop them coarsely first) and remove from the heat.

Baked Ziti

1 1lb package ziti or penne pasta
8 oz ricotta cheese
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
2 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese
tomato sauce (above)

Set the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Boil the pasta al dente, according to the instructions on the package. Make sure you salt the water first. Drain the penne and return to the pot (but not the heat!) and add the ricotta cheese and about half of the mozzarella. Mix well. In an oven-safe dish, place about half of the tomato sauce. Next, place about half of the pasta/cheese mix in the dish, add another layer of tomato sauce, then the rest of the pasta. Top with the remaining mozzarella and sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the top.

Cook in the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the cheese is nicely browned and the sauce is bubbling. Let cool a few minutes before cutting, and serve with a fresh green salad.


  1. I love Italian food, so I'll have to try this one out. The other night I made a delicious Italian sausage + bell peppers in a tomato sauce. It was a big hit!

  2. I love that dish, generally make it with potatoes and without the tomato sauce though :)

  3. I know some Italian people do "Pasta al forno" (baked pasta) but while the recipe seems different seems sort of same principle