I was going to put “easy AND delicious” but this isn’t actually as easy as some of my other recipes. However, the tastiness, portability, and freezer storage potential of this dish more than make up for any extra steps in its preparation! This is my go-to dish when I need to bring something to a potluck or cook for a large crowd and it always gets rave reviews.
I also should put in that technically this was my mom’s dish long before it was ever mine, even if I’ve added some refinements and extra flavors. Isn’t that what happens with family recipes, though? They get changed just a bit with every generation, which just adds to the history.
Without further ado, here’s the recipe for my Baked Ziti:
-1 box of short pasta (ziti or penne or rotini)
-1 pound of ground beef (although chicken or turkey will work just as well; you can also leave this out if desired)
-1 jar of pasta sauce
-1 bag of shredded mozzarella
-8 ounces of sliced mushrooms
-1 small jar of sliced black olives
-Garlic, either powdered or a couple of minced cloves
-1 medium onion, diced
How to make this deliciousness:
1) Preheat oven to 350°. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the entire box of pasta according to the directions. Drain and put back in the cooking pot. Set aside.
2) While your pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the mushrooms, onions, and beef until cooked through; this usually takes about as long as it takes for your pasta to cook. As it’s cooking, sprinkle it liberally with the garlic and some italian seasonings. When it’s done, drain off as much fat as you can. If you’re not using meat, saute the veggies in a little olive oil for this step instead.
3) Once your pasta is cooked and your meat is browned, dump your meat mixture back into the pot with the pasta. Pour the jar of sliced olives and the jar of pasta sauce into the pot and give it a good mix.
4) Depending what you want to do with this, divy the mixture up between casserole dishes as desired. This recipe will make either one large 11×13 baking dish (which is what I use for a potluck) or two 8×8 baking dishes (which is what I use if I want to cook one and freeze one).
5) Spread the mozzarella cheese evenly over the top of the baked ziti and cover with aluminum foil. At this point, you can wrap it up tightly with foil or saran wrap and pop it into the freezer for future nomming. Otherwise, pop it into a preheated 350° oven for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes. Enjoy!
You can probably mix this up by adding other veggies (like zucchini) or other add-ins (like artichokes). Also, you can make this as lean and healthy as you want with whole wheat pasta, lean meat, lowfat sauce, 2% cheese, etcetera etcetera. I always add extra cheese to the DreadBrewer’s side of the pan as he likes it extra super cheesy.
I meant to take a picture of the finished product, after it was baked and looking delectably gooey, but I forgot. And then we devoured it. So you all will have to make it yourselves just to see how delicious this really is.