February 5, 2013

Baked Ziti

I cannot make lasagna. I've tried, but the noodles and the amount of sauce get me every time. I've blundered boiling the noodles; they stick together, rip, and tear. One of my lasagna attempts with one of the no-boil pastas was swimming in a pool of sauce. The optimist in me wanted to present it as lasagna soup.

Choose your culinary battles wisely. Ziti, to this total non-Italian, has the same flavors as lasagna with 100% less headache. I make two batches at a time because it's not at all double the work and then I have a entire dinner with leftovers in the freezer. I started making double batches of ziti when my husband and I, then dating, first moved in together. We were living in a smaller Brooklyn apartment that had a kitchen that was comparatively enormous to what we have now. Go figure.

Ingredients & Tools
  • 2 lbs. ziti
  • 2 lbs. ground turkey [beef or chicken]
  • 2 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 16 oz. shredded mozzarella
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 2 defrosted boxes of frozen spinach
  • 2 tablespoons oregano 
  • 2 tablespoons garlic
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • olive oil
  • 2 large pots with lids
  • collander
  • 2 oven and freezer-safe dishes

Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large pot and brown the protein. I'm making beef stew this week, so I went with ground turkey for this dinner.

Drain the protein of your choice and fill another pot with water for the pasta. Crank up the heat and cover it.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the pot where you cooked the meat, add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the dried herbs. Ina Garten cooks dried herbs and spices to "wake up" the flavors. She's a genius, so I do what she does. This "waking up" takes under a minute.

Add both cans of crushed tomatoes.

Add 4 teaspoons of Kosher salt. Add the ground turkey/beef/chicken and cover the pot. Allow the sauce to simmer for about 20 minutes, as the pasta cooks.

Cook the pasta just under al dente, following the directions on the box. I cooked my ziti for 9 minutes. Drain and get the assembly line ready. Start by placing a thin layer of sauce at the bottom of each baking dish to prevent sticking.

Add a layer of ziti. Look, it doesn't matter if they're all lined up! In fact, it'd be pretty hard to line up ziti noodles. Rejoice in the freedom.

Totally drain the thawed spinach. This involved squeezing the life out of these greens. You don't want to add unnecessary liquid. Add all of one box of spinach to each of the dishes. I know lasagna doesn't traditionally have spinach, but I like to have a vegetable with dinner and this is an easy way to get a serving in.

Add another layer of sauce and the ricotta.

Cheese loves cheese. Add a layer of mozzarella. If you're all about equal distribution, think one fourth of the total amount of mozzarella.

Add another layer of ziti. Look at the chaos!

Finish it off with the rest of the mozzarella.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and when it doesn't cut into a perfect square when you serve it, know it's supposed to be that way. Enjoy!


  1. This looks DELICIOSO and I love the fact that so few ingredients yield so many servings! May need to make this when the in-laws come over this weekend. Thanks, Crying Cook!

  2. Success! Thank you Crying Cook!!! :)