This is by far my favorite family friendly meal. Everyone can always agree on a cheesy baked pasta for dinner, right? Sister, brother, mom, dad… no one can deny a good baked ziti. It’s got all the flavors that the whole family will enjoy. Plus, it’s basically a one pot meal, which makes it a whole lot easier on the cook!
You start by sweating down a combination of onion, carrot and garlic. From there, you add in the 1/2 lb of ground sirloin and 1/2 lb of Italian sausage. (The sausage is such a great robust flavor that adds so much body to the meat sauce… it’s a must!) After the meat cooks…comes the spices. A great mix of Italian seasonings and basic salt and red pepper flakes. Then comes the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Let it cook down till it’s perfect and then mix in the ziti pasta. Top with a combination of cheese like ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake till the cheese is gooey and the top layer is slightly crispy (the crispy parts are secretly my fave!). Simply made and easy to do. A wonderful hot meal the whole family can enjoy!
I love to serve my baked ziti with a side caesar salad and a crunchy baked baguette with butter. Reference my pasta kale caesar salad for a wonderful homemade dressing (linked below). Mix with some romaine (or kale) and throw on some croutons and freshly grated Parmesan. It’s the best! You’ll never buy store-bought caesar dressing ever again, I promise! My version is so much better.
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- 1 lb. ziti pasta, cooked
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
- 1 medium yellow onion, small dice
- 5 cloves garlic, small dice
- 8 oz. ground Italian sausage
- 8 oz. ground sirloin (90/10)
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp sugar
- 26 oz. boxed or canned strained tomatoes
- 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup pasta water
- 1.5 cups mozzarella
- 1/4 cup Parmesan, grated (plus more for topping)
- 12 oz. ricotta cheese
- Heat a large pot to medium heat. Add in olive oil, carrot, onion and garlic. Cook while stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. The vegetables will become tender and onions will be translucent at this point.
- Add in the Italian sausage and ground sirloin. Cook while stirring for another 8 minutes until the beef and sausage are almost cooked through.
- Add in salt, pepper, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, paprika and sugar. Stir to incorporate.
- Add in strained tomatoes, petite diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Keep the heat at medium with a soft boil and let cook an additional 15 minutes.
- Add in pasta water and stir to incorporate.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Add in the pasta to the meat sauce and stir so that each noodle is coated and the sauce is evenly distributed.
- At this point, transfer to an oven proof pot (if not cooked in one to begin with) or to a large baking dish.
- With a spoon, scoop spoonfuls of ricotta cheese and place randomly in the further down in the pasta. This will create melty pockets of cheese throughout when cooked. Then sprinkle on parmesan and mozzarella on top.
- Place in the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes. Cook until the cheese is melted and the top layer of pasta is slightly crispy on the edges.
- Remove from the oven and serve hot with extra Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.