When I told Matt we were having baked ziti for dinner, he said “Sounds great!… what’s a ziti?” To most people, pasta is just simply pasta… the different types and names don’t matter. The long ones are spaghetti, the tubed ones are penne, the curved ones are macaroni. So not true! There are SOO many different names and types of pasta! I won’t begin to get into it here because that would be a very long post, and quite honestly, I don’t even know all the different pastas… but next time you’re at the grocery store, branch out! If a recipe calls for spaghetti, try thin spaghetti, or vermicelli, or fusilli (that’s a fun one!). If it says penne, use rigatoni, shells, or farfalle (bow-ties). The type of pasta you use isn’t going to ruin the dish (unless you try to make lasagna with macaroni… that could be strange). This is especially fun if you have kids – plus you can sometimes find colored pasta (Wacky Mac is a great brand)!
So this post is about ziti… ziti isn’t anything fancy. It is just a plain, tubed pasta with straight edges (not to be confused with penne which is usually textured with angled edge). I’ve just always thought the name sounded fun! You could totally use whatever kind of pasta you wanted with this dish, but it tends to stay together better with a short, rounded pasta (penne, ziti, rigatoni).
In a medium-sized saucepan, brown the ground meat. Add in the red sauce and simmer on low for a half hour so the meat can absorb the flavor of the sauce.
When the sauce is ready, boil a large pot of water on the stove and add the pasta in when it is boiling. Cook the pasta until it is al dente (still a little chewy) and drain. Put the pasta into a 13×9 baking dish and carefully mix in the meat sauce. Stir in all but a handful of the parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, and top the dish with the remaining cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for a half hour, removing the foil after 20 minutes so the cheese can brown up and get bubbly. Serve with some yummy bread and enjoy!
So I know what you’re probably thinking… isn’t this just spaghetti with different pasta, baked in an oven? Well yeah, basically, but with the pasta being slightly undercooked, it absorbs the flavor of the meat sauce and the cheese gets all melty…. it’s super yummy! This is an easy weeknight dish when you’re short on time, or can be nice enough for Sunday dinner!