ULTIMATE BAKED ZITI — Pasta is baked in a creamy marinara sauce with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese in this ultimate version of a classic Italian dish.
If I’ve learned one thing cooking for my husband and kids over the years, it’s that I can’t go wrong with a hearty pasta dish loaded with cheese and a classic marinara sauce. This Ultimate Baked Ziti is the perfect example.
This is a slightly adapted version of the America’s Test Kitchen recipe for baked ziti.
So yes, it’s a bit more work than mixing up some pasta with jarred sauce (which, as a busy mother I am not beyond doing), but if I’ve got some extra time, this is definitely the way to make baked ziti.
I tried this tonight and it was a huge hit! It was so creamy and yummy. Everyone is already asking when we’re going to have it again! ~ Julie
I’m not a cottage cheese fan, so I was skeptical of using it in place of ricotta. But truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of ricotta either. It’s the texture I don’t like, especially when it’s cooked.
Still, I was surprised that I liked the cottage cheese more. It stayed creamy during baking, just like the folks at America’s Test Kitchen said it would.
And as long as I don’t tell my kids there’s cottage cheese in their pasta, the devour this pasta dish every time I serve it! Of course, if you really do prefer to use ricotta, that works well too.
One of the many things that sets this baked ziti apart is that the recipe calls for cubed mozzarella cheese rather than shredded. You can see how that results in pockets of gooey, cheesy goodness.
I made this last night and it was so good! My boyfriend, a vegetarian, said it was the “best thing I’ve ever made” for him. ~ Sara
And the pasta is coated in a creamy tomato sauce, then topped with a classic marinara, for a totally amazing combination of flavors.
This does make a lot, so unless you are feeding an army, I would suggest cutting the recipe in half, or freezing some for later.
This one is destined to become a family favorite!
Be sure to save this Ultimate Baked Ziti recipe to your favorite Pinterest board for later.
Tips for Cooking Pasta
Use a big pot: Cook pasta in a large pot–big enough to hold 6 quarts of water per pound of pasta.
Salt: Generously season your cooking water with salt. A few teaspoons per quart of water is a good place to start. Although a little more or less is fine, depending on your preference.
Don’t overcook: Boil your pasta to until it is al dente, which means it’s cooked, but still a bit chewy. You’ll want to test your pasta for flavor and texture every 20 seconds or so during the last few minutes of cooking.
If you’ll continue cooking the pasta in a sauce, or baking it in the oven, remove the pot from the heat a few minutes before it’s done to prevent overcooking.
Here’s what you’ll need to make Ultimate Baked Ziti
- Cottage cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Spices: Italian seasoning, oregano, salt and pepper
- Heavy cream
- Olive oil
- Produce: garlic, fresh basil
- Canned crushed tomatoes
- Tomato sauce
- Mozzarella cheese
- 16 ounces cottage cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, divided
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 16 ounces ziti or other tube pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (14.5 oz.) can tomato sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the cottage cheese, egg, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until barely tender, about 5 minutes. Drain return to pot. Set aside.
- While pasta cooks, heat the olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano, and additional teaspoon of Italian seasoning. Simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and fresh basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add cottage cheese mixture and 1 cup of the tomato sauce to the pasta and mix well. Stir in half of the mozzarella cheese. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella and Parmesan over the pasta, then cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the foil and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, 25-30 more minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 399Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 83mgSodium: 761mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 22g
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Who Dished It Up First: Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen