I know it’s quite a claim to call this Best-Ever Baked Ziti recipe the best ever, but wait until you try this Best-Ever Baked Ziti. One bite, and we’re pretty sure you’ll agree. This truly is the Best-Ever Baked Ziti recipe!!
Of course, the sum of this dish is greater than it’s parts. But…the parts are pretty amazing, too. And that starts with a robust, deeply flavorful meat sauce. You can easily make the marinara sauce several days in advance. You can even make the entire sauce in advance, it freezes beautifully! Mmmmm…meat sauce.
Using top quality ingredients is key to making this the best-ever baked ziti recipe, as well. Seek out top-quality ricotta cheese and mozzarella. We just can’t stress this enough. This dish serves a nice-sized gathering of friends and family. Give this dish the kind of love you would your best friends and closest relatives, and the love it gives you back in return will make your heart sing!
You can make this Best-Ever Baked Ziti recipe up to 2 weeks in advance and freeze. Let thaw before baking.
- FOR THE MEAT SAUCE:
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
- 2 celery stalks, chopped (about ½ cup)
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped (about ½ cup)
- ½ lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
- ½ lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 lb ground beef
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup red wine
- 5 cups fresh marinara sauce (click for recipe)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- FOR THE BAKED ZITI:
- 16 oz. quality ricotta cheese
- 16 oz. quality mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely shredded
- 1 lb dried ziti
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- MAKE THE MEAT SAUCE:
- Make the marinara sauce and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook until soft, about 7 - 10 minutes.
- Crumble the sausage with your hands into the pot and then add the beef. Cook until almost no longer pink.
- Season with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper, each.
- At this point, if too much grease has rendered, you can drain it off.
- Add the wine and cook until liquid is almost all gone, about 4 - 5 minutes.
- Add the marinara and tomato paste and simmer for 1 hour.
- Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Set aside until ready to assemble dish.
- ASSEMBLE THE BAKED ZITI:
- Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Cook the ziti according to package instructions for al dente. Drain and set aside.
- In a large baking dish, ladle a thin layer of the meat sauce on the bottom of the dish.
- Add a layer of cooked ziti.
- Top with dollops of ricotta and then about ¾ cup of mozzarella.
- Sprinkle about ¼ cup of Parmesan on top of that.
- Repeat this process again.
- Top with a handful of pasta, then another cup of the sauce, a ½ cup of the mozzarella, and another ¼ of Parmesan on top.
- Baked, uncovered, for 45 to 50 minutes, until lightly browned on top and bubbly.
- Garnish with chopped parsley.