Baked Ziti is one of my favorite comfort foods. It tastes amazing, especially the next day. It is an excellent dish to make in advance and freeze or eat immediately. Better yet, make two batches and eat one and freeze the other for later.
Rich, flavorful marinara sauce coats the ziti pasta (or in this case penne pasta) and ground beef and italian sausage. It is mixed with cream cheese and mozzarella and parmesan for a creamy, cheesy, beefy, pasta-y, yum fest. Yes. A Yum Fest is an accurate description. Try it and you will understand what I am talking about.
In addition to being a delicious, make ahead dish, it is budget friendly and can really feed a crowd, making it perfect for large gatherings or potlucks.
Many people layer the meat, cheese, and pasta. Not me! I mix everything together and just top with cheese. It is all going to get mixed together anyway. Besides, I think it tastes better mixed together. Plus I’m lazy. It is just easier to mix everything together.
Can I just say how much I love this dish? I made it on Sunday, and ate it for lunch and dinner on Monday and lunch on Tuesday and never got tired of it. I could live off this stuff. You have got to try this dish. It is the ultimate comfort food.
- 16 ounces dry ziti or penne
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ lb lean ground beef
- ½ lb ground italian sausage
- 2 teaspoons dried italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (adjust to taste)
- 1 (28-ounce) jar your favorite marinara sauce ( I use Newman's Own)
- 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened and cubed
- 1-1/2 cups mozzarella (or Italian Blend cheese), shredded
- ½ cup parmesan, shredded or grated
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
- Prepare pasta according to package direction, drain, set aside.
- While the pasta cooks, in a large skillet, over medium heat, cook onion for about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and stir for about one minute. Be careful not to let the garlic burn. Add ground beef and cook until it is browned and no longer pink. Add marinara sauce, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, and diced tomatoes and simmer 20 minutes. Add in cubes of softened cream cheese. Stir until melted.
- Spoon meat mixture into the baking dish. Top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.
- Bake covered for 25 minutes in the preheated oven. Uncover and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
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