"Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart." -Winnie the Pooh

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tasty Tuesday {Baked Ziti}

Last week, I let y'all in on a surprise that two new "days" would be coming to the blog weekly.  On Friday, I featured Friday Fun Finds.  If you missed it, make sure to click the link and catch up.  It really is quite funny! In keeping with that promise, today will begin "Tasty Tuesdays!"

A little history about Tasty Tuesday... 

I cannot take credit for it.  A few weeks ago I stumbled upon my cuz Molly's blog.  She had this great idea to do something called Tasty Tuesday.  When I read it, I thought to myself, I cook.  I sometimes post recipes. I want to be like the Pioneer Woman {minus the whole waking up at 4am to herd cattle}.  Why not start Tasty Tuesday at my blog?  So thanks to Molly, I'm hijacking the title and posting some of my recipes.

What you should probably know about my recipes is that they are easy and most are my Mom's recipes.  They aren't too involved, and there is always a short cut.  My Mom taught me how to cook {thank goodness!}  There was no "learning" when we got married.  Yes, there have been new recipes that I have tried, but for the most part, I stick to my Mama's book of recipes.  And there are never complaints from David.  My man likes it simple and easy.  He doesn't want me to add a bunch of ingredients that he's never heard of.  Sometimes I wish that I didn't have a picky eater and that I could make things like my friend Jill makes.  I mean, this looks really good, but if I tried to make it and told my husband what it was, he would turn up his nose just because he couldn't pronounce it.  And so I stick with things like the following recipe.  No fluff.  Today I'm showing you how to make Baked Ziti my way! {err..my Mom's way!}

I hope you enjoy this Baked Ziti recipe as much as my family does.  It's an absolute favorite in the Herrington/Adams household. Hang around at the end for the recipe, and I apologize to my friend Megan who doesn't like red sauce. I promise there will be something later for you Meg! :)

To start, here's the "cast of characters."  You'll need ground beef, spaghetti sauce, some type of pasta, mozzarella cheese, and ricotta cheese.

First, start by boiling a pot of water.  It doesn't have to be too big.  Just follow the directions for amount on the back of your pasta.  Do NOT forget to salt your water!  It's the only chance you have at getting any flavor into the noodles.  And since the ricotta cheese is sweet, you want your pasta to be slightly salted.

Once it begins to boil, add in 8 oz weight of dry pasta.   The bags usually come in 12 oz, so I usually just guess.  It's about 2/3 for those non-math folks out there.  I feel like I should also mention that my family NEVER buys ziti pasta for baked ziti.  We buy penne rigate for baked ziti.  The only reason I can give is that it's still long and hollow like ziti, but firmer then the ziti.  Just trust me--buy the penne.

Allow pasta to cook to al dente. I honestly have no clue what that means. Maybe my friend Jill can help out.  If not, Wikipedia it like I just did.  From what I gather, you don't want the noodles soggy.  So I guess I've been doing it right?  Haha. 

While the pasta cooks, throw a pound of ground beef into a skillet and brown it.

Once the pasta is done, drain the fat off and try to remove as much grease as possible.  You don't want your baked ziti rolling in grease. Gross.

Next, find a bowl and add the meat to it.  Now, you'll notice in the photo above that I am using RAGU Traditional spaghetti sauce.  I do not know the people at Ragu, and they are definitely not paying me to say this, BUT for the love of everything make SURE that you buy Ragu TRADITIONAL sauce and ONLY RAGU!  It will go on sale super cheap at Kroger if you watch for it. Then you can mix coupons in with that and get it even cheaper.  There are usually about 6 jars in our pantry at one time.  One time, I bought it for $0.83 a jar. Seriously.  Just take my word for it.  Ragu Traditional is the best, and even if you can't find it on sale, buy it.  And yes, before you ask, I've tried other kinds of the Ragu sauces.  Most of the time it's because I accidentally buy another kind.  Double check that you are buying Traditional--it's the best!

Add the jar of sauce to the bowl of meat and stir to combine well.

At this point, SOMETIMES I add in Italian Seasoning.  It just kind of depends on what I'm feeling.  The Ragu doesn't need it, but sometimes it "dresses it up a bit."

Next, get out another bowl and dump in 8 oz of ricotta cheese and 8 oz of mozzarella shredded cheese.  At this point, the Pioneer Woman would tell you to grate your own.  While I'm sure it's better and tastier to grate your own, I have no shame in buying the pre-grated.  And neither should you!

Don't worry about combining just yet.  Once the pasta is done, strain it through a colander, and immediately pour over cheese mixture.

 You want the heat of the cooked pasta to melt the cheese.  Combine extra well. It helps if you break up the ricotta cheese a little bit before trying to combine.

Next up comes the layering.  Start with a layer of the spaghetti meat sauce mixture.  Then add all of the pasta for the second layer.  Sometimes I don't use all of the pasta.  That is fine.  Just use your discretion. If you want it really meaty, leave out some of the pasta.  In this case, I used it all. 

Once you have the cheese/pasta layer complete, add the top layer of meat sauce. 

Then sprinkle 8 oz of mozzarella cheese on top of the dish. 

You can also add Parmesan cheese on top like the recipe calls for, but I went to find some in the fridge this night in particular, and there was none.  I do like it with Parmesan, but it wasn't worth an extra grocery store run, but it is really good with grated Parmesan sprinkled over the top in addition to the mozzarella.

You want to pop in the ziti for 30 minutes on 350 degrees or until cheese is melting and bubble.  The best part about this recipe is that you can make it ahead and freeze or refrigerate it.  I have made it for guests coming over before in the morning, covered it, and then heated it up to serve 30 minutes before they come over.  Perfect way to make sure that your kitchen is clean before company arrives or that it's piping hot when your hubby comes home!

Cheeeeesssy goodness!  Add a side salad and some hot bread, and yummy, yummy dinner is served. 

I hope that you enjoyed this simple recipe from my kitchen to yours!  I think "Tasty Tuesday" and I are going to be very good friends!  And I also think my husband is going to like the fact that I am featuring "Tasty Tuesday."  It means I'll have to cook more!  Haha!

Let me know what you think and if you try it!

Baked Ziti {or Penne}

8 oz dry, uncooked Penne Rigate Pasta
1 lb ground beef {browned}
1 jar of Ragu Traditional Spaghetti Sauce
approx 16 oz of mozzarella cheese {divided}
8 oz ricotta cheese
Parmesan cheese

Boil pot of water and prepare pasta as directed on package making sure to salt water.  Cook to al dente.  Brown ground beef in pan, and drain off all of the grease.  In large bowl combine meet and spaghetti sauce.  In a separate bowl, combine ricotta cheese and half of mozzarella cheese.  Drain pasta and pour into cheese mixture.  Combine well. 

In a baking dish, layer half of spaghetti meat sauce mixture.  Add pasta and cheese mixture.  Top with the rest of the spaghetti meat sauce.  Cover with the rest of the mozzarella cheese.  Add grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

Heat in 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes until cheese begins to bubble.


  1. Looks tasty! I dont think I have ever had Ragu sauce so I may have to try it out when I make this recipe. We have always just made our own sauce, but I may just have to try it out! :)
    And I may have to try out your friend Jill's Polet saute aux herb d Provence! It looks delicious!
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. oooh, yum. This looks delicious!! Loved all of your wedding pictures by the way :) I thought that was so creative that you did cow bells as you guys were leaving! haha It looks like you had a blast...You and David make a cute couple! :)

  3. Sara! What you should do is make this dish without him knowing, blindfold him, and make him take a big bite of chicken with all that delicious sauce on top and he is CRAZY if he doesn't like it!!! hahaha Thanks for the shoutout!

  4. Thanks for the shout-out AND the recipe! Looks delish!