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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lasagna-Baked Ziti

Growing up in New Jersey, I was surrounded by Italians. Literally surrounded. Three Catholic churches in our small town, 4 or 5 Italian restaurants in a 1/4-mile distance (keep in mind, there is just one traffic light downtown!) and last names like Pagnani and Martorana galore! Living around so many Italians meant lots of Italian food at community and school parties, specifically baked ziti. Baked ziti is to New Jersey as funeral potatoes are to Utah.

easy and delicious lasagna-baked ziti from @janemaynard

Needless to say, I ate some really delicious baked ziti growing up. Which makes it all the more disappointing that almost every time I’ve tried to make it, it just isn’t up to snuff. Well, I tried a recipe from my Real Simple | Best Recipes cookbook and I’ve finally found my winning ziti recipe! Woohoo! Move over, Italian mamas from New Jersey.

In case you are wondering, the recipe is also really easy to make. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Lasagna-Baked Ziti
From Real Simple | Best Recipes with my notes
  • 12 ounces ziti, cooked to package directions (for some reason my grocery store did not have ziti, so I used penne)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ⅓ onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped or pushed through garlic press
  • ½ pound lean ground beef or italian sausage
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 26-ounce jar marinara sauce (I had a bunch of No-Cook Pizza Sauce left over and that made up the bulk of my sauce, with some leftover jarred sauce to make up the difference. The sauce was delicious!)
  • 1 bunch or 1 small bag spinach, thick stems removed (about 4 cups)
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (I did more than 1 cup”¦probably about 1½ or so)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Drain cooked pasta and add it back to the pot.
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook onion until soft and clear (4-5 minutes), then add garlic and cook about 1 minute more. Add the beef, ¾ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, breaking up the meat, until the meat is cooked through.
  4. Pour meat mixture into large pot of drained pasta. Add sauce, spinach, ricotta and ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese. Transfer to a 9×13 casserole dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Bake until ziti is hot all the way through and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.



  1. 1

    I love the LV name drops! This looks great, Jane. I like the addition of the spinach and I think I’ll be making this soon.

  2. 2

    Yummy. Growing up Italian, bakes zita is a reglar dish in my house. I like it with sauasge too. I never tried spinach but I think I will.

  3. mmm, this sounds wonderful! the spinach sounds great- as does using italian sausage versus ground beef. delish!

  4. Even though I have absolutely no Italians in my ancestry, I am just crazy about the cuisine! I’ve never had an Italian dish that I didn’t like and this one looks like it’s going to be a favorit as well!

  5. This is in the oven right now! Looks yummy!!

  6. My kind of comfort food! I grew up in NY and I used to order this from the pizza place all the time!

  7. This looks fantastic! We would love to you have you link it up at The Hopeless Housewife Link Party, we are giving away a Le Creuset French Oven.

  8. 9

    Homerun dinner. I deleted the salt, subbed ground turkey for the beef and threw in the entire 15 oz container of ricotta. I also used the whole 16 oz box of pasta. I used trader joe basil marinara. My family loved this meal. I found it makes 8 servings. So I froze half of it for another night. I can’t wait to eat it again. Thanks.

  9. 11
    Mary Ann

    I am Italian and I am also from New Jersey, Bergen County. I actually have two baked ziti casseroles in my freezer right now. I never added spinach to it. I have another casserole that I add spinach to I will share it with you later. It’s delicious. Where in Jersey are you? We lived in a town named Fair Lawn. Yes, we also had three Catholic Churches around the area. Many Italians and great cooks. We live in Florida for the last 40 years, so I’m much much older than you. I have several good recipes and pizza dishes. Also, Italian cheesecake and Christmas cookies.

    • Hi Mary Ann! I grew up in Morris County, so west of your spot in NJ 🙂 If you ever want to share recipes, please do! Love your comment! Sending delicious Italian food vibes to you in Florida!

  10. This classic Italian-American dish is the meal that’s been missing from your cooking repertoire, your dinner table, your life. Make it and you’ll see.

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