Sunday, July 19, 2015

Baked Ziti or How to Cheat at Lasagna

A yummy, easier alternative to lasagna

         Sundays after church, my family is usually in a big hurry to eat. I try to make Sunday's meal on Saturday, or make something in the slow cooker so we can walk in the door after church and have lunch without delay. For more strategies on making your Sunday more stress free, click here.
         Baked Ziti (pronounced zee tee) has everything lasagna offers except for the tricky long noodles. Lasagna noodles need to be handled delicately or they'll rip or stick together. They are also a little more challenging to serve. Ziti noodles are smaller little tubes of goodness. They are fatter, straighter, and heartier than macaroni noodles. You can make your own spaghetti sauce, or use store bought for this recipe; and instead of spreading the sauce and ricotta cheese over the longer noodles (tricky as well), you mix most of it together. The ingredients that are spread can be done so without accidentally moving or tearing the heartier noodles.I pre-baked this ziti on a Saturday, let it cool, covered it, and refrigerated it for Sunday's lunch. Because my husband only had an hour between church and going to work, I used this strategy to enable my husband to easily and quickly scoop out a serving and zap it in the microwave. He didn't have time to wait for it to bake!  The rest of the family followed his example before gathering in the dining room for our Sunday lunch. A salad and some garlic bread made the meal a little more special.

1 pound box ziti pasta
1 1/2 to 2 pounds ground beef (or turkey)
2 jars of spaghetti sauce (or homemade)
1 16 oz. container of ricotta cheese
four cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (and a little extra to shake on top at the end)
2 eggs
teaspoon salt
diced peppers, onions, or mushrooms
1/4 cup parsley (dried or fresh)
I have also skipped the parsley and added a handful of chopped, thawed frozen spinach

I chopped up a green pepper from Emily's garden and an onion to cook in with the ground beef.  You might also add some chopped Italian sausage or mushrooms. This time I used jarred spaghetti sauce that had Italian sausage already in it. Get your pot of water started for the ziti pasta.

While the meat cooks and the water heats up, combine ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the mozzarella, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, parsley (or spinach), two eggs, and a teaspoon of salt.

When the ground beef is finished, drain, add jars of sauce, and set aside. 

After pasta is finished (boil about ten minutes), drain, rinse with cool water, and combine with cheese mixture.

Add in 3-4 cups of meat sauce into your pasta mixture.

Preheat oven to 375 if you plan to bake immediately. Spread half of pasta mixture into a casserole dish.

Top with a layer of meat sauce.

Sprinkle top with 1 cup mozzarella cheese.

Repeat with the rest of the pasta mixture, sauce, and the last cup of mozzarella cheese.
Sprinkle the very top with a little extra Parmesan. This one is ready to go into the oven!

Bake for 30-40 minutes and serve. You could also bake it, let it cool, and cover for the next day (like I did) or cover it before baking and store it in the refrigerator or freezer. 
If you choose to freeze this, it will need a couple hours to thaw before baking. If you choose to refrigerate it, don't let it wait more than two days.


A quick meal with the family and then off to work for Scott!

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families, He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; but the rebellious will dwell in a dry land. Psalm 68:5-6



  1. We make a dish almost like this, but I layer it all in the crock pot and cook on low. It's hot and ready when we are. No microwave at the new house.

  2. Do you use noodles in your version? I could see a lot of possibilities using veggies instead of pasta (like squash). I like the idea of the crock pot. Tell me more!

  3. Any thick noodle like the ziti. Sometimes we break up lasagna noodles, add about 1 cup extra liquid, and use the broken noodles uncooked. GF noodles work fine. Zucchini noodles would probably work, but would not need as long to cook.

  4. Almost any dish you can bake in the oven can be adapted for the slow cooker. I've even cooked with my roaster or slow cooker outside on the porch to keep the heat down in the house.