Try out this oven baked ziti! Or a pasta bake casserole topped off with a rich tomato and homemade meat sauce, sour cream and loads of grated cheese… This sounds like a delicious bowl of comfort food to me!
Let’s make a rich pasta bake today! And what do you think about baked ziti?
I guess I watched too many Sopranos episodes over the last weeks… In it loads of baked ziti are put on the dinner table to feed an army of mafia goons and their families. But where does the name come from?
Well ziti refers to the specific type and shape of pasta that you need for this dish.
Ziti is long in shape. You might think it looks like small rigatoni and is also similar to penne. However its ends are mostly straight instead of cut diagonally.
I am making a simple and homemade spaghetti tomato sauce from scratch. But of course if you haven’t got the time to make a batch from scratch, just add ready made sauce.
The deli around the corner here sells a good old spaghetti sauce, which I sometimes use for this lush ziti pasta bake.
And other meat sauce based dishes such as lasagna or a Greek moussaka.
Easy Baked Ziti Casserole Recipe
One thing that you need to keep in mind: don’t overcook the pasta.
The ziti will cook further on in the oven for another half hour together with the rest of the ingredients. We’re looking for some bite here! So here it is then: my oven baked ziti or ziti pasta topped off with a rich tomato meat sauce, sour cream and loads of gooey cheese…
Italian comfort food at its best! Buon appetito, fellas.
Do you love baked pasta dishes?
Then also check out my Greek pastitio!
Easy Baked Ziti Casserole Recipe
Oven baked ziti recipe: cooked pasta topped with a rich tomato meat sauce, sour cream and loads of cheese... Delicious comfort food!
- 1 ⅓ lbs ziti or penne (600 g)
- 1 lb ground beef (450 g)
- 1 lb canned chopped tomatoes (450 g)
- 3 large garlic cloves peeled
- 1 large onion chopped finely
- 1 glass red wine
- 5,5 oz sour cream (155 g)
- 7 oz grated cheese (155 g)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick pan over medium and then add the chopped onion.
Stir fry for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the ground beef and season with pepper and salt.
Cook the beef for 5 minutes until it starts to brown. Break up any lumps. Pour in the red wine. Cook for another 3 minutes. Then transfer 5 tablespoons of the cooked beef mince to a clean plate and put it aside for later. Add the canned chopped tomatoes to the remaining mince in the hot pan. Season with pepper and salt.
- Stir well and cook the tomato sauce for 10 minutes. In the meantime bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and then add the ziti.
- Cook the ziti until almost al dente and drain. Add the sour cream and a handful of grated cheese to a large mixing bowl. Season with pepper and salt.
- Stir into a creamy mixture and then add the cooked pasta.
- Stir well again. Sprinkle a large ceramic baking dish with a little olive oil, pepper and add half of the creamy pasta.
Then top with half of the tomato sauce and half of the grated cheese. Season with pepper and salt. Add the rest of the pasta and cover again with the remaining tomato sauce. Sprinkle with the cooked mince you kept aside. Finish with a generous layer of grated cheese and a last sprinkle of pepper.
- Bake the ziti in a preheated oven at 392°F (200°C) for 25 to 30 minutes. Cut the ziti up and serve hot.
Is baked ziti the same as lasagna?
Baked ziti and lasagna are two distinct Italian-American pasta dishes, each with its own unique characteristics. While they share some similarities, they are not the same.
Baked ziti is typically made with ziti pasta, which are short, tubular pasta tubes.
In this dish, the pasta is mixed with a tomato-based sauce, ricotta or cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, and sometimes meat like ground beef or sausage. The ingredients are combined and baked in a casserole dish without distinct layers. Baked ziti is known for its simplicity and ease of preparation, making it a popular choice for a quick and hearty meal.
On the other hand, lasagna features flat, wide sheets of lasagna noodles.
What sets lasagna apart is its distinct layering technique.
Lasagna noodles are layered with ricotta cheese or béchamel sauce, a meat or vegetable filling, and a generous amount of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. These layers are carefully stacked in a specific order before baking. Lasagna is known for its visually striking appearance and the layered texture it offers.
In summary, while both baked ziti and lasagna are Italian-American pasta dishes that include pasta, cheese, and tomato sauce, they differ in their pasta shape, layering technique, and overall presentation. Baked ziti is a simpler, quicker dish, while lasagna is more elaborate and often reserved for special occasions.
Is ziti and penne the same?
Ziti and penne are two different types of pasta that may look somewhat similar at first glance, but they have distinct characteristics and culinary uses.
Ziti is a type of pasta that is short, tubular, and cylindrical in shape.
It typically has straight-cut ends, resembling a miniature pipe. Ziti’s hollow tube-like structure makes it ideal for holding and capturing sauces and ingredients. This pasta is commonly used in baked pasta dishes, like baked ziti, where the sauce can cling to the inside of the tubes, resulting in a flavorful and textured bite.
Penne pasta is cylindrical with a diagonal cut at each end, creating a slanted or “quill” shape.
Penne’s design allows it to hold sauces on its exterior while offering a slightly different texture compared to ziti. The slanted cut provides a more substantial surface area for sauces to adhere to, making it an excellent choice for a wide range of pasta dishes, including both creamy and chunky sauces.
While ziti and penne may have similarities in their cylindrical shapes, the differences in their cuts and textures make them suitable for distinct culinary applications. Ziti is favored in baked pasta dishes for its sauce-trapping capabilities, penne is a popular choice for various pasta recipes that require sauces to coat its exterior.
Is baked ziti actually Italian?
Baked ziti, despite its Italian-sounding name, is not considered a traditional Italian dish. It is actually more of an Italian-American creation.
Italian cuisine is diverse, regionally specific, and often characterized by simplicity and the use of fresh, seasonal ingredients. While pasta is a fundamental component of Italian cuisine, the way it is prepared and served can vary greatly from one region to another. Traditional Italian pasta dishes tend to focus on the pasta itself, with simple but flavorful sauces that complement the pasta without overwhelming it.
Baked ziti, on the other hand, is a dish that developed in the United States, particularly within Italian-American communities.
It typically consists of ziti pasta mixed with tomato sauce, ricotta or cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, and sometimes meat, such as ground beef or sausage. The ingredients are combined and baked in a casserole dish, resulting in a comforting and hearty dish.
While baked ziti may draw inspiration from Italian cuisine, it is not a dish you would commonly find in Italy itself. It is an example of how Italian immigrants in the United States adapted their culinary traditions to the ingredients and tastes available in their new home, creating a unique fusion of Italian and American flavors.
What does ziti mean in Italian?
In Italian, the word “ziti” refers to a type of pasta.
Ziti pasta is characterized by its short, tubular shape, similar to miniature pipes or penne with straight-cut ends. The name “ziti” comes from the Italian word “zita,” which means “bride” in English.
This pasta got its name because it was traditionally served at weddings in Southern Italy, where it symbolized fertility and the joining of two families. Today, ziti is enjoyed in various pasta dishes, both in Italy and around the world, but it is not limited to wedding celebrations.
Why is baked ziti so popular?
Its appeal lies in its simplicity and ease of preparation.
Unlike more complex Italian pasta dishes like lasagna, baked ziti requires minimal culinary expertise. The straightforward steps involved in its creation make it accessible to a wide range of home cooks.
Baked ziti’s status as a comfort food is another key factor contributing to its popularity. The combination of ingredients used in this dish, including pasta, a rich tomato sauce, creamy cheeses such as ricotta and mozzarella, and sometimes meat, creates a hearty and satisfying meal that invokes feelings of warmth and nostalgia. It is the kind of dish that provides a sense of culinary comfort, offering a familiar and welcoming taste that many find deeply satisfying.
Furthermore, the versatility of baked ziti plays a significant role in its popularity.
This dish can easily be tailored to suit individual preferences and dietary restrictions. Cooks can incorporate various ingredients such as sausage, ground beef, mushrooms, or vegetables to personalize the flavor profile. This adaptability makes baked ziti appealing to a broad spectrum of tastes and dietary needs.
Baked ziti is also known for its generous portions, making it an ideal choice for gatherings and social occasions. Whether it is a family dinner, a potluck, or a casual get-together, this dish can comfortably feed a crowd. Its ability to serve many people with relative ease makes it a practical choice for those hosting gatherings or events.
Baked ziti’s suitability for advance preparation and freezing contributes to its popularity.
This convenience factor makes it a go-to option for individuals or families seeking make-ahead meals that can be enjoyed later with minimal effort.
The irresistible combination of melted mozzarella cheese and the creaminess of ricotta or cottage cheese creates a rich, cheesy, and indulgent texture that appeals to many palates. The harmonious blend of flavors and textures in baked ziti is a significant part of what makes it so beloved.
In summary, baked ziti’s popularity can be attributed to its straightforward preparation, comforting nature, adaptability, suitability for gatherings, convenience, and its ability to deliver a delightful and satisfying cheesy experience that resonates with a wide range of diners.
What wine goes well with baked ziti?
Consider the dish’s hearty and flavorful elements.
Baked ziti typically boasts a rich tomato sauce, a blend of cheeses like mozzarella and ricotta, and possibly meat, creating a robust and savory profile. In this context, a medium-bodied red wine like Chianti can be an excellent choice.
Chianti’s moderate acidity and bright red fruit notes harmonize with the tomato-based sauce while cutting through the cheese’s creaminess. Its subtle earthy undertones can complement any meat components in the dish.
However, wine preferences are subjective, so if you lean towards white wine, a crisp Pinot Grigio or a well-balanced Chardonnay can provide a refreshing contrast. Ultimately, the best pairing is one that suits your personal taste and enhances your enjoyment of the meal.