I was in the mood for a good hearty pasta dish this week so I decided to make yet another variation on the Italian pasta, marinara and cheese combo: Baked Ziti. I always feel a little guilty when eating just pasta sauce and cheese so I tried to squeeze in a few extra vegetables by adding sauteed mushrooms and spinach to the mix. If you don’t like mushrooms and spinach, feel free to skip those steps and just make it straight pasta, sauce and cheese. Also, if you’re the carnivorous type, try browning a pound of ground beef or Italian sausage and adding it to the sauce for a super hearty baked ziti.
One important thing to note: this recipe makes A LOT. I filled a huge 9×13 inch casserole dish all the way up to the top. When it was all cooked and cooled, I cut it into 12 big ‘ol thick blocks which I know I’m not going to be able to eat within the week. So, if you’re cooking for just yourself or maybe one or two other people, cut this recipe in half. OR, you can split the mix into two casserole dishes, bake one and freeze the other. Then you can thaw and bake the second one later.
Baked Ziti is an easy way to take pasta up a notch. Baking in the sauce adds flavor and depth. Easy, filling, inexpensive, and delicious!
- 1 lb. ziti or another tubular pasta $1.00
- 15 oz. ricotta $1.83
- 1 1/2 cups divided shredded mozzarella $1.49
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan $0.64
- 1 large egg $0.15
- 3 cups fresh spinach $0.50
- 8 oz. fresh mushrooms $1.49
- 1 Tbsp olive oil $0.11
- 1 clove garlic $0.06
- 4 cups marinara $2.32
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash and slice the mushrooms and mince the garlic. In a skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil and saute the mushrooms and garlic until the mushrooms are tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach, letting it wilt from the remaining heat.
In a large pot, cook the pasta according to the directions on the box (boil for about 5-7 minutes). Only cook the pasta until it is tender because it will continue to cook in the oven once the casserole has been assembled (you don’t want super mushy ziti).
While the mushrooms and pasta cook, mix together the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, parmesan and egg. Once the spinach and mushrooms have cooled, stir them into the cheese mixture. Drain the pasta and let it cool slightly then stir it into the cheese mixture as well.
Layer the marinara sauce and pasta/cheese mixture in a casserole dish starting with marinara sauce on the bottom. Use just enough sauce to cover the bottom of the dish (1 to 1.5 cups) then top with half of the pasta/cheese mixture. Cover the pasta/cheese with another layer of sauce then layer the remaining pasta/cheese mix on top. Cover the second layer of pasta/cheese with one final layer of sauce. Sprinkle on the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes (less if you are doing a half recipe). Garnish with chopped parsley if desired.
Step By Step Photos
Saute the mushrooms until they are tender.
Remove the mushrooms from the heat and stir in the spinach, allowing it to wilt just slightly.
Mix together the ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella, parmesan and egg. Then stir in the slightly cooled mushrooms and spinach.
Stir the cooked/drained and cooled pasta into the cheese mixture.
Layer the pasta/cheese mixture in a casserole dish with the marinara sauce, beginning and ending with the sauce.
Bake the casserole for 45 minutes then serve!
NOTE: If you don’t want to make your own marinara, you’ll need about 2 regular sized jars (26 oz. is average) to make this entire batch.