Baked pastas can be whatever you want them to be. You can make a classic baked ziti with meat or no meat, you can make it vegetarian and change the vegetables with the seasons or you can dream up your favorite flavor combination and give it a shot, let me know if you’ve found a great combination to share!
You will cook the pasta to just under al dente (in water that is as salty as the sea), I prefer mezze rigatoni, but you can use penne, rigatoni, ziti… your choice. Cool cooked pasta flat on a cookie sheet, do not rinse your pasta under water, that removes the beautiful starch and your dish will be less flavorful and harmonious.
The following recipes will be for a 9×13 pan, using 1lb. of pasta. You will bake the completed pasta for 20 minutes at 375* with a foil top, if you like toasty cheese on top, leave the dish under the broiler on ‘hi’ until it is as browned as you like it, I usually go about 3 minutes, but all broilers are different.
Classic Baked Ziti
I used this recipe from The Pioneer Woman who is wonderful and the recipe is fantastic. If you are short on time you can use your favorite jar of sauce, in a pinch I go with Rao’s. You can also swap the meat for ground turkey which is what I used and it was great.
Baked Ziti with Roasted Vegetables
Roast your favorite seasonal vegetables in the oven on a sheet pan. You can make this dish with tomato sauce like a traditional baked ziti or you can make it without the red sauce by making a simple cheese sauce (loose because a thick cheese sauce would hide the beautiful veggies) with roux, milk, cheese, mustard powder and salt. Toss it all together and top with extra mozzarella or breadcrumbs before baking.
Not baked but super fast and delicious pasta dish ideas…
This dish was a fridge emptier, nothing makes me happier than the perfect fridge emptying meal. I used sweet/hot sausages, chicken pieces, aromatics, broccoli rabe, bell peppers and pickled cherry peppers and it was a spectacular dinner. I used one dutch oven for everything except the pasta which I cooked to al dente in water salty as the sea and then tossed it into the dutch oven to soak up all the incredible flavors. This type of dish truly reminds me of my father and how he would throw things together and they would taste like magic.