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)
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.
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.
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 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!