Gary’s Baked Ziti

As crazy as this might seem, I’ve never made baked ziti. Eggplant parm, lasagna and all sorts of pasta, but ziti? My friend Gary sent me a photo of a baked ziti he was just taking out of the oven, and it looked wonderful. Weirdly, the next day, I was asked to make ziti for a party, so I cajoled the recipe from Gary. Makes a lot…

Gary’s Baked Ziti

  • 1 pound ziti or rigatoni
  • 2 quarts your favorite marinara sauce
  • 1 ½ pounds of ricotta
  • 1 ½ pounds mozzarella coarsely grated or in small chunks
  • 1 ½ pounds Italian sausage (hot or sweet, or a mix)

Cook the ziti or rigatoni until it’s firm but not quite al dente—about 2-3 minutes less than the package says. Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat, remove the sausages from the casings, crumble them and add to the pan. Cook until they’re nicely browned. Remove from heat.

In a large roasting pan or 2 smaller oven-proof dishes, coat the bottom with a thin layer of sauce.

Add the rest of the sauce to the pan with the sausages and mix well.

In the roasting pan, put a layer of ziti, followed by a layer of the sausage and sauce mix. Add the ricotta in 1 tablespoon-sized dollops and then add the mozzarella until the surface is covered.

Repeat with ziti, sauce/sausage mix, ricotta and mozzarella.

The top layer should be just sauce and mozzarella, no ricotta.

Bake at 400° for 15 minutes, reduce oven to 375° and bake for another 30 minutes or until top is golden brown and bubbly. Let rest for 15 minutes, serve, and enjoy!

My verdict:

How wrong can you go with that much cheese? This was a big hit at the party, even in the middle of August. A few nights later, we had some of the leftovers for dinner and they were delicious. I thought the ziti were a little overcooked in the leftovers, so the next time, maybe 3-4 minutes less than the package says. You can easily make this vegetarian by leaving out the sausage.

I used Rao’s marinara sauce, which is my go-to when I’m too lazy to make sauce. Not sure how big the tub of ricotta was, but even after being very generous with it in the ziti, there was enough left to make lots of ricotta gnocchi.

Big thanks to Gary for the recipe!

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