Baked Ziti has to be one of the greatest pasta dishes of ALL time. It’s Italian family comfort food at it’s best and a perennial favorite at our house. I’ve tried many recipes over the years, some good and some just okay. This recipe from Giada is the one that has become my absolute favorite! She’s added homemade mini meatballs and taken the dish to a whole new level. These little babies really rock!
Her original recipe calls for tomato sauce. I wanted to up the flavor a bit so I used an easy to make Marinara. Use your favorite Marinara recipe or a ready made works out well. I also add 1-1 1/2 cups of julienned basil to the dish for even more deliciousness. This is one Killa Baked Ziti!!!
- 1/4 Cup - Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 Cup - Plain Dried Bread Crumbs
- 2 - Eggs, Large, Lightly Beaten
- 2 Tablespoons - Milk
- 3/4 Cup - Romano Cheese, Grated
- 1/4 Cup - Flat Leaf Parsley, Chopped
- To Taste - Salt
- To Taste - Black Pepper
- 1 Pound - Ground Beef
- - All Purpose Flour for Dredging
- 1 Pound - Dried Ziti
- 1 1/2 Cups - Fresh Basil Leaves, Julienned
- 5 Cups - Marinara Sauce
- 3 Cups - Whole Milk Ricotta
- 2 Cups - Mozzarella, Shredded
- 1/2 Cup - Parmesan, Grated
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, eggs, milk, 1/2 cup of the Romano and the parsley, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Add beef and gently combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Shape into bite-size meatballs. Roll each meatball in flour to coat, shaking off excess.
- In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander and set aside. If not using immediately, cover top with plastic wrap so that pasta does not dry out. Do not rinse pasta with water since you want to retain the pasta's natural starches so that the sauce will cling to the ziti.
- In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When almost smoking, add meatballs in batches and without moving or turning the meat, allow it to brown for about 3 minutes. Turn meatballs and brown other side. Continue to cook until all sides are golden brown. Remove meatballs to a plate.
- In a large bowl, combine the Marinara sauce and ricotta and mix well. Add the cooked ziti , fresh basil and meatballs and toss gently.
- In a large greased baking dish (mine was 9 x 13 x 2 1/2inch), pour in pasta mixture. Sprinkle the mozzarella, Parmesan, and remaining Romano all over the top. Place baking dish on top of baking sheet covered with aluminum foil to collect any drippings from the dish. Bake until top is golden brown and bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.