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Three Cheese Baked Ziti
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5 from 4 votes

Three Cheese Baked Ziti

If you like lasagna, but don’t want to bother with the fuss, make Three Cheese Baked Ziti instead! It has the same basic ingredients and taste as a classic lasagna, but is way easier to make. As an added bonus, it makes incredible leftovers, and freezes beautifully.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time3 hrs 30 mins
Total Time3 hrs 45 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 440kcal
Author: Chula King

Ingredients

Meat Sauce

  • 1 pound (16-ounces) mild Italian sausage (See Tip 1)
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 medium onion)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 14.5 ounce can Petit Diced Tomatoes
  • 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • ½ cup water

Three Cheese Baked Ziti

  • 12 ounces (3 cups) uncooked Ziti
  • Meat Sauce (See Tip 2)
  • 1 ½ cups (12-ounces) ricotta cheese, preferably homemade (See Tip 3)
  • 4 ½ cups (18-ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 cup (4-ounces) grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 egg

Instructions

Meat Sauce (See Tip 3)

  • Brown and crumble Italian sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. Drain well on paper towels. (See Tip 4)
  • Wipe out skillet with paper towels and return to medium heat. Add the onions; cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds unti fragrant.
  • Add drained sausage, basil, oregano, salt and pepper; stir to combine. Add petit diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste; stir to combine. Add brown sugar, red wine and water; stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 3 hours.

Three Cheese Baked Ziti

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  • Cook Ziti in boiling water to al dente stage, about 10 minutes. Drain in colander; rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  • Combine ricotta cheese, 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, ½-cup grated Parmesan cheese, and egg in a large bowl. Add cooked Ziti; mix to combine. Add 2 cups of the meat sauce; mix to combine.
  • Place half of Ziti mixture in prepared baking dish. Top with half of remaining meat sauce and half of remaining mozzarella cheese. Repeat with remaining Ziti, meat sauce and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle remaining grated Parmesan cheese on top. (See Tip 5)
  • Bake at 375°F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
  • Yield: 10 to 12 servings. (See Tips 6 and 7)

Notes

  1. May substitute ground beef or ground turkey. 
  2. If you prefer, you can use your own recipe for meat sauce. You will need between 4 and 5 cups of meat sauce.
  3. I always use homemade Ricotta cheese in my recipes. It is totally worth the extra effort.
  4. I like to break the meat up into small pieces. To do this, I allow the cooked meat to cool a bit and then rub it between the palms of my hands.
  5. If making three smaller Baked Zitis like I did layer each dish as follows: 10 ounces of pasta mixture, ⅓ cup meat sauce and ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese. Repeat for second layer. Sprinkle on ⅓ of the remaining grated Parmesan cheese.
  6. May be made ahead of time before baking and either refrigerated or placed in the freezer. If frozen, thaw before baking.
  7. Leftovers, if any are excellent. Reheat for a minute or two in the microwave or at 350°F in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 440kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 77mg | Sodium: 1415mg | Potassium: 730mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1265IU | Vitamin C: 11.5mg | Calcium: 683mg | Iron: 2.6mg