Baked ziti is a grown-up take on macaroni and cheese. It is ideal for a luncheon or brunch menu or an informal dinner party entree.
When serving at a buffet table, serve in the baking dish or bake ziti in a medium sized aluminum pan and use a caterers racks and sterno cans to keep warm (see chafing dishes).
Make Ahead Ideas
Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Cheese
About 6-8 servings, recipe easily doubles, do not triple
The tomato sauce and herbs are slow-simmered to make a very savory sauce.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Hot pepper sauce to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups ziti
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese plus extra for serving
Fresh basil leaves and lemon wedges for garnish
Preheat oven to 375F. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Warm oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, broth and seasonings, break up tomato pieces and bring mixture to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes; stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add pasta and Monterey Jack cheese to sauce and mix well. Transfer to a medium-sized baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Uncover, stir and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake until bubbly, about 25 minutes longer. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Serve with extra Parmesan cheese and lemon wedges.
Cheesy Baked Ziti
This decadent and delicious baked ziti has the tang of goat cheese, a spicy bread crumb and bacon topping and a healthy dose of grated Parmesan. If you would like, substitute goat cheese with 2 ounces of farmers, boursin, cream, cottage or ricotta cheese.
4 slices bacon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup coarse dried bread crumbs
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 small shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
2 ounces soft goat cheese, or other soft cheese. See Helpful Hints
1 tablespoon chives, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ziti pasta, or other short, tubular pasta
Preheat oven to 350F
In a small skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Cool and crumble. In a small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the olive oil until foamy. In a bowl, toss the bacon with the bread crumbs, parsley, lemon zest and red pepper flakes. Stir in the olive oil mixture, blending with fingers until well mixed.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain the ziti and transfer to a buttered casserole dish.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cream and simmer, stirring, until reduced by one-third, about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, goat cheese and chives. Season with salt and pepper.
Mix the cream sauce with the ziti in the casserole dish. Clean the edges of dish. Bake ziti about 15 minutes. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture on top and bake for 10-15 minutes longer or until pasta is bubbly and crumb mixture is lightly browned. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving