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Baked Ziti with Ricotta

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Baked Ziti with Ricotta is a great meal for a busy week or as a gift to a new mom. Pasta is mixed with a flavorful tomato sauce, ground beef , cottage cheese, ricotta and mozzarella cheese and baked to perfection to create a comforting meal! 

Baked Ziti with Ricotta in baking dish

BAKED ZITI WITH RICOTTA

I have been dealing with a sinus infection for the past couple of weeks and haven’t had much of an appetite. When I finally felt like eating the first thing I thought about was a big bowl of pasta. One of my favorite dishes is this Baked Ziti with Ricotta.

When I think of comfort food I almost always think of Italian food. I love so many Italian dishes but lasagna and baked ziti are my top two favorites. If you like Crock Pot Lasagna recipe you have to try this Baked Ziti Recipe. 

Baked Ziti with Ricotta in white bowl

What I love most about adding ricotta and cottage cheese to a baked ziti dish is that it helps to create a creamy, rich flavor in the sauce. Don’t be scared by the cottage cheese, I promise it works really well in this dish. If you aren’t a fan of cottage cheese you won’t even know it is there. It is similar to making lasagna. The cottage cheese melts into the sauce as you bake the dish. 

There are a lot of ways to modify this easy baked ziti dish. For example if you want a vegetarian baked ziti dish just leave out the ground beef. You could add vegetables or mushrooms to the sauce to bulk it up. If you aren’t a fan of ground beef try ground pork, sausage or turkey. If you are trying to avoid a lot of dairy you can leave out the ricotta and just use the mozzarella cheese. 

Baked Ziti with Ricotta with fork

TIPS FOR MAKING THIS EASY BAKED ZITI 

  • I created a quick homemade sauce for my ziti but you could easily use your favorite jar of tomato sauce to save yourself time. 
  • Prepare your ziti the day before, cover it and keep in the refrigerator. When you are ready to eat it you can heat it in the oven and enjoy! It is a great way to have a meal ready to go when you get home from work. 
  • Fresh herbs are always your best friend in cooking. I love adding fresh basil, oregano and parsley to this dish. It is the perfect finishing touch! 

Baked Ziti with Ricotta with large spoon

FREEZING INSTRUCTIONS

This is a great freezer meal! Cool the dish completely and then freeze for up to a month in a sealed container. Pull it out and thaw it in the refrigerator a day before you want to cook it. Heat in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the pasta is heated through. You can add extra fresh cheese if you like. You can also heat the leftovers in the microwave for 3-4 minutes. 

WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH THIS ZITI RECIPE

Whenever I make an Italian meal I always serve a vegetable side dish, bread and a salad. Here are some of my favorite pairings:

This Lemon Arugula Salad with Pine Nuts, Kale Salad with Lemon Dressing or this Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad.

I love a good homemade bread. This Easy Yeast Bread or this Homemade French Bread are two I like to make. 

Veggie side dishes are always the perfect pairing for an Italian dish. I like these Green Beans with Brown Butter and Toasted Almonds and this Roasted Broccoli are two I make often. 

Baked Ziti with Ricotta in white bowl

Baked Ziti

Yield: 6-8
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Baked Ziti with Ricotta is a great meal for a busy week or as a gift to a new mom. Pasta is mixed with a flavorful tomato sauce, ground beef , cottage cheese, ricotta and mozzarella cheese and baked to perfection to create a comforting meal! 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of ziti pasta {you can sub penne or rigatoni}
  • 1 pound ground beef {or sausage or turkey}
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 - 32 ounce jar of tomato sauce or make your own {see instructions to make your own}
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup of cottage cheese
  • 1 - 16 ounce tub of ricotta cheese, park-skim
  • 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh parsley and basil for garnish, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Add the pasta to the water and boil until the pasta is al dente. Drain, drizzle olive oil the pasta so it doesn't stick together and set aside in a large bowl.
  3. In a large skillet heat the 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Drain the fat and return the beef to the skillet. Add the garlic to the skillet along with the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. In the bowl with the pasta pour the sauce and mix well.
  5. In another medium bowl mix together the ricotta cheese, cottage cheese and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.
  6. In a 9x13 baking dish spread a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom. Pour the pasta with sauce in the dish. Take spoonsfuls of the ricotta mixture and place throughout the pasta until it is all used up.
  7. Sprinkle the leftover mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese over top of the pasta.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
  9. Garnish with the fresh parsley and basil.

Notes

MAKE AHEAD: I made this meal the night before to give to a friend after she had a baby. This dish works great if you cook the three parts (meat, sauce and pasta) and let each part cool. Then assemble the dish and once completely cool put in the refrigerator until the next day. When you deliver it to your friend tell them to let it sit out for 20 minutes to bring it to room temperature before baking and they can pop it in the oven and have a hot, delicious meal waiting (with leftovers of course).

TO FREEZE: This is a great freezer meal! Cool the dish completely and then freeze for up to a month in a sealed container. Pull it out and thaw it in the refrigerator a day before you want to cook it. Heat in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the pasta is heated through. You can add extra fresh cheese if you like. You can also heat the leftovers in the microwave for 3-4 minutes. 

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Beth Blacksin

Tuesday 22nd of October 2013

Hi Julia: did you ever make this ziti w/ turkey or meatless? what do you think? I made the macaroni and cheese and it makes about a zilliion meals in my house! delicious.

Julia

Tuesday 22nd of October 2013

I like it with turkey actually and yes I have made it meatless. I suggest adding more veggies for meatless--maybe carrots and zucchini or something like that!

Stefanie @ Sarcastic Cooking

Monday 21st of October 2013

Oh man, I am soooo not ready for that first month. I have a ton of soups stocked up but I need to get some of these kind of dishes stockpiled in my freezer!

Julia

Monday 21st of October 2013

I need to start doing it too! Frozen soups are a great idea. I actually just got a deep freezer so I am pretty excited to start stocking up!

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