This baked pasta dish is inspired by Food Network stars, Patrick and Gina Neely’s Baked Ziti recipe. We used a similar procedure, but not all the same ingredients. It makes a very hearty dish and so comfortingly easy to make. It is basically a quick browning of the meats and sauteing of the veggies before combining them into a baking dish topped with cheese and then placed into an oven. You can use any ground meat including ground beef and ground turkey, but we’ve tried ground turkey and it’s not as flavorful as Italian sausage, so increase your seasonings if you are using leaner meats. You can also add whatever veggies you want to this and if you want this to be a vegetarian dish, we recommend substituting the meat with mushrooms.
Ingredients: (6 servings)
- 12 oz of penne (or ziti or rotini)
- 1 lb mild/spicy Italian sausage (or any ground meat preference)
- 1/2 large onion or 1 small onion, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, sliced
- 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1-2 ladles of a roasted red pepper garlic sauce (Classico is our go-to brand)
- Italian seasoning or mix of Italian herbs (can be dried)
- Red pepper flakes for an extra kick (not necessary if you are using spicy Italian sausage)
- 8 oz mozzarella (pre-grated or fresh is fine)
- 1-2 cups? of grated parmesan cheese (pre-grated is fine and quantity is a guessed amount as I forgot to measure that, but just put enough that will cover the top surface of the pasta dish)
- 4 quart baking dish
- Brown ground meat / sausage in pan on medium heat (you are not trying to cook through it completely).
- Start boiling water in a large pot.
- When almost done browning the meats, add the sliced garlic into the pan.
- Cook garlic a little and then add the diced onions.
- Cook until onions are almost translucent.
- Add diced tomatoes / sauce as necessary, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes.
- Mix and let simmer for 10 mins.
- While the meat sauce mixture is simmering, add the pasta to the salted boiling water pot and cook until just al dente since it will continue to cook in the oven later.
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- When the pasta is done and strained, add meat sauce mixture from the pan into a 4 quart baking dish.
- Add the strained pasta to baking dish and mix to combine.
- Top with shredded Parmesan cheese, ripped chunks of mozzarella cheese, and Italian herbs and distribute them across the entire surface.
- Bake for 20 mins or until the pasta on the top surface has a bit of a golden brown crust.
Tip: If you have any leftovers, drizzle some olive oil over the leftovers before placing it in the fridge to prevent it from losing too much moisture. After you reheat it the next day, drizzle some more olive oil if it looks a bit dried out.
Another great thing about this dish is that we can combine any two different meats that were leftover from a previous dish.
Below are pictures of the process from Step 10 and onwards.