Frugal Meal #2 – Baked Ziti

Categories Frugal Meals

Hi guys! Seems like everyone is still recovering from Fincon, so I thought I would take it easy today by sharing another frugal meal of mine. My mom made the best baked ziti I’ve ever had, and it was actually the last meal she made for us before moving. Of course, she made it again when I visited her over the summer. Now that I’ve successfully replicated her recipe, my parents are demanding I make it when they come up here for Christmas! No pressure, though it did pass my grandma’s taste test as I brought it for leftovers one Thursday for our weekly dinner.

I thought baked ziti would be a lot more elaborate, but it’s actually pretty darn simple (and cheap)! If you’re like me and kind of a new cook, it might seem intimidating, but I am here to tell you it’s not. Give it a try!

As a little sidenote, I finally got around to publishing a Blogroll. If you’re not on there, give me a shout and I’ll be sure to add you! I’m sure I missed a few people. 

What you need

(This makes a rather big serving – we had leftovers between R and I, so I would say serves 4)

The owls are my salt & pepper
The owls are my salt & pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2 cans of tomato sauce (I use puree)
  • Oil (I use extra virgin) to coat the bottom of the pot
  • Fill one can a little below halfway with water so the sauce isn’t too thick
  • Sugar, oregano, garlic powder, parsley, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, all to flavor the sauce (if you’ve made sauce before just use what you like). My mom never made exact measurements, so I usually do enough to cover the surface of the sauce and go a little less on the sugar. I’m still experimenting with it.

After the sauce:


  • 1 box of ziti (this is 1lb)
  • Mozzarella cheese (I use half a block)
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Some more Parmesan cheese
  • Aluminum foil pan – rectangular shape (I don’t remember the measurements of the one I used!)

You may have noticed I didn’t include meat in here, which technically makes it cheaper, but some people prefer their baked ziti with ground beef. If you want to add it in, that’s fine – I imagine it doesn’t affect things here too much.

How to make it

First, get out a decent sized pot. Pour in enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Pour your 2 cans of sauce in, and then add all the spices. Cover it up. I usually let the sauce sit on the stove for 2 hours, stirring it every so often. I’ll start it off on medium to medium low heat, and lower it as it gets closer to the 2 hour mark.

Cook the ziti as it gets closer to 2 hours as well. Boil water, add a bit of salt. It shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes. Drain it.

While you’re waiting for the ziti to cook, you can cut up the mozzarella cheese into little cubes. I used a half of a block and it turned out decently cheesey, so you can vary it depending on how much you’d like in there.

In the aluminum pan, spoon out some sauce – enough to cover the bottom. You don’t want the ziti sticking to it! Put a layer of ziti in the pan.

Baked Ziti

Sprinkle the cubes of mozzarella around as evenly as possible. Then, plop spoonfuls of ricotta around. I don’t remember specifically how many spoonfuls I used, but it was maybe 6 or 7 for the first round.

Put the rest of the ziti in. Stir it around to melt the cheese a bit and get a feel for how it’s looking. Consistency matters! Then repeat. Put the rest of the mozzarella cubes in, spoon out some more ricotta, and get some more sauce in there.

Once everything looks good, cover the top of the aluminum pan with some more aluminum. Put it in the oven at 350°F for 40 minutes. This turned out perfectly for my oven.

Cost break-down

I normally buy all of these items on sale:

  • Tomato sauce – varies from $.88 to $1.00 a can
  • Ziti – one box varies from $.88 to $1.00 as well
  • Mozzarella cheese – got this on sale for around $2
  • Ricotta – got this on sale for around $3 I believe; it’s the bigger container
  • Parmesean cheese – varies depending on brand, I try not to spend more than $4, but I know the tubs can run up to $8
  • Disposable aluminum pan – R actually bought this, and doesn’t remember the price, but I would imagine you can use a glass pan or whatever you have that is oven safe.
  • Spices everyone usually has on hand as well as oil!

Estimated total: $15 if you use the aluminum pan and don’t have any of the other things on hand. I like to stock up on sauce when it goes on sale, and I usually keep a few boxes of pasta in the pantry. In contrast, if you went out to an Italian restaurant for 2, you’d probably spend about $30. For 2+ meals I think this is great!

Simple, isn’t it?

Baked ziti

Baked ziti is a great go-to “fancy” meal that a lot of people enjoy. You can make it for the holidays, for birthdays, or for Sunday pasta! It really doesn’t require as much time and effort as you might think. Seriously, if I can make it, you can make it. As a bonus, the leftovers taste great, so you can have this for dinner another time or bring it to work! While it tastes best baked in the stove again (save that aluminum pan), it’s fine to put in the microwave as most of us don’t have the luxury of an oven at work.

Do you enjoy baked ziti? Have you ever made it before? Tell me your variations on the recipe! 

Erin is a total goofball who sucks at writing about herself (though she finds referring to herself in the third person amusing). When she's not editing videos, she can be found messing around in Photoshop, laughing at her cats, watching YouTube videos, playing video games, chair dancing, sipping coffee, or any random combination of the above.

37 thoughts on “Frugal Meal #2 – Baked Ziti

    1. Shoot, I wish I remembered! Knowing where I shop, it was likely Target, but I got them at least a year ago. They might have them again considering the season though! The only other place I can think of would be Marshall’s. As soon as I saw them I knew I had to get them!

    1. Aw, I hope you do! It’s really easy, and I would be super happy if R ever tried to make me something like this. He had to ask me how to boil noodles the other day…he has a lot to learn!

  1. Kind of happy I came across this post while B was still away. She is in love with owls and would probably want a set like that for herself. The recipe looks delicious though. I’m not a huge pasta fan so I would have to substitute squash or zucchini but I would think it would still work.

    1. I love owls, too =). They were too cute to pass up, plus I didn’t have any salt and pepper shakers of my own. I really need to try spaghetti squash, I hear good things but I’ve never had it.

    1. Stuffed shells sounds good, too. I love cheese as well, which is why I always make sure to add a decent amount of mozzarella and ricotta to the ziti. So bad, but so good. I just ran out of ground turkey meat, I need to get some more. I just wish it would go on sale more often.

  2. No gonna lie, I didn’t even know what baked ziti was before I saw this. Looks good though, gonna have to try it!

  3. Recipes are a great attraction to me and I just love reading the ingredients and the procedures. I am not really able to cook all those that I encounter but still, when I see a recipe, I’d sure read it word for word. In this particular post however, my eyes keep coming back to the more attractive owl salt and pepper shakers.

    1. I had a feeling people were going to comment on the little owls, they are really cute. I don’t think I’m ever going to get rid of them. I love discovering new recipes too, and if they’re simple and easy it’s definitely a bonus.

  4. Interestingly, I’d not heard of baked ziti til you mentioned it, I think (in past posts). It certainly sounds easy – do the flavours develop whilst you cook the red sauce for so long? I was also surprised b the layers of cheese hidden in the pasta – unexpected!

    1. What?? I cannot believe so many people have never had it! Well, at least here in America =) I’m not sure if it’s a regional thing or anything, but you can get it at any Italian restaurant here. Honestly I just follow my moms recipe, I’m guessing the spices seamlessly flavor the sauce in the hours it’s sitting on the stove. You definitely can’t rush it as I learned last week. The cheese makes the dish!

    1. Hm, I’ve never had it with rice. The baked ziti alone is so filling to me, I can only have one serving, but it is so worth it. My mom does make rice with chicken cacciatore and it tastes really good with the sauce.

    1. You’re welcome! I can’t believe you’ve never had baked ziti before, such a tragedy. I prefer it over lasagna as it’s not as messy. I hope you try it and like it!

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