Can you even believe that this was my first time making Baked Ziti? I have never even ordered it in a restaurant, but I do know it’s one of my Hubby’s favorites. So, I had a container of my Homemade Meatballs and Sauce in the freezer, so I used that (see link for recipe). If you don’t wish to make your own, use your favorite jarred sauce. Don’t have meatballs, you can use hot sausage, ground sausage, ground beef, or the sauce alone. Just be sure to brown the meat first, then add the sauce and heat through. I think the secret to how amazing this dish was, was not only using my homemade sauce and meatballs, but also the incredible cheese mixture. A similar mixture I use for my Baked Meatballs.
All I had to do was warm up my meatballs and sauce. As I was doing this, I prepared the pasta to al dente. I love, love, love using DeCecco pasta. Cooks up perfectly, every single time. If you are using ground beef, sausage or sausage links. Brown the meat while the pasta is cooking. Add in the sauce and allow to cook for about five to ten minutes.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. As the pasta and sauce are cooking, grab a bowl and combine all of the ingredients for the cheese mixture. Mix well. (Excuse the dried parsley. It’s all I had. I suggest always using fresh).
Grab a 12″ cast iron pan or casserole dish. I sprayed mine with a touch of non-stick spray. Ladle on thin layer of sauce on the bottom. Add half of the pasta.
Add another ladle or two of the sauce on top of the pasta. Spoon on the ricotta cheese mixture. Add the remaining pasta and coat with more sauce. Top with about half of the shredded mozzarella (you will be adding more after it bakes for a little while).
Place in oven for about 20 to 25 minutes. Test the inside to see if the ricotta cheese mixture has warmed, and is melty. If not, bake another five or so. Top with the remaining shredded mozzarella. Turn on the broiler and allow the cheese to melt and brown. Keep an eye on it, as you do not want the cheese to burn.
Remove the Baked Ziti from the oven and serve up all warm and gooey. ENJOY!