I think that when plain pasta sauce is used in the ziti it leaves it dry and quite bland. I like a creamier, cheesier marinara sauce with my ziti. That’s why I add in ricotta cheese and sour cream. I also like to make the top crunchy, golden brown. The only trick to this is to broil the ziti at the end.
There are many different ways to make baked ziti and this is just a way to take a basic ziti recipe and jazz it up a bit. I still use boxed pasta, a jarred sauce, but I put in a few add-ins to make it my own. I’ve seen people add ground beef or sausage and while that’s all good, it takes away from the original ziti and makes it taste more like a lasagna.
Easy Baked Ziti (a Hezzi-D original)
1 lb. ziti pasta
1 t. garlic salt
2 (20 oz) jars marinara sauce (or 4-5 c. homemade sauce)
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/3 c. red wine
2 t. Italian seasonings (I use oregano and parsley)
¾ c. part skim ricotta cheese
¼ c. light sour cream
½ c. Parmesan cheese, divided
2 c. part skim mozzarella cheese
1. Bring water salted with 1 t. garlic salt to a boil. Cook ziti according to package directions. Drain and put in a large bowl.
2. Meanwhile, put one and a half jars of the marinara sauce in a pot (reserving the other half of the second jar for reheating the ziti the next day). Add the garlic cloves, red wine, and Italian seasonings. Cook at medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with nonstick cooking spray.
4. In the large bowl with the ziti add the ricotta cheese, sour cream, and ¼ c. of the Parmesan cheese. Stir well. Add in ¾ of the marinara sauce mixture. Toss to combine.
5. Spread half of the ziti into the prepared pan. Top with 1 c. of mozzarella cheese. Spread remaining ziti on top of the cheese. Pour remaining sauce over top of ziti. Top with 1 c. mozzarella cheese and ¼ c. Parmesan cheese.
6. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Turn the oven to broil and broil the ziti 6 inches from the heat source for 1-2 minutes, keeping a close eye on it so that it gets brown and bubbly but does not burn. Serve with garlic bread.
**Reheating instructions-Place remaining baked ziti in a baking dish. Spread remaining half jar of sauce over top and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until hot. This dish can also be reheated in a microwave safe dish for 2 minutes in the microwave.**
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