baked ziti recipe

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I’m flying around trying to get out the door. I wish I had time to go on and on about how great this dish is, but I don’t. Trust me. It’s delicious. If you find an issue with how rich it is, go rake some leaves or go for a run. Or, just eat a tiny piece. (Good luck on that last part by the way.)

I simmered homemade Bolognese sauce on the stove for hours before I put it together, but in a pinch, you could probably substitute a jarred marinara sauce. Note – your neighborhood will not smell like the best Italian restaurant in town if you go the easy version, but I understand that sometimes shortcuts are necessary.

Baked ziti. I used an 8x8-inch pan, plus a loaf pan (to give to a friend), but it makes a nice 13x9-inch casserole. Generously serves 6.

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Bolognese sauce, or 2 (26 ounce each) jars your favorite marinara sauce
  • If not using Bolognese sauce, add 1 pound browned and crumbled ground beef or sausage, plus one diced onion
  • 1 pound ziti or rigatoni pasta
  • 6 ounces sliced provolone cheese (9 slices)
  • 1 ½ cups sour cream
  • 8 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

If not using my recipe for Bolognese sauce, sauté onion in a little bit of olive oil until tender. Add ground beef or sausage and brown until cooked through. Add marinara sauce and taste for seasonings. Add more salt if necessary.

Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer as follows: ½ of the ziti, ½ sauce mixture, Provolone cheese, sour cream, remaining ziti, remaining sauce mixture and then mozzarella cheese. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheeses are melted. You may want to cover it for the first 20 minutes with foil and then let the cheese melt and brown for the last 10 minutes.

Tonight’s dinner - Bree’s Baked Ziti or “Pizza Casserole.”

It’s a very slight variation on my mother’s old recipe. Just a box of rotini pasta, 3 lbs lean ground beef, shredded mozzarella cheese, and a very big jar of Prego pasta sauce.

Boil the pasta and brown the beef. Drain both well. Mix about ¾ of the big jar of sauce with the beef.

In a good-sized foil pan or baking dish, make your layers. First the pasta, with a splash of pasta sauce and a light sprinkling of mozzarella mixed in. Then the beef and the rest of the pasta sauce. Last, evenly coat the top with mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 350F for about 20min, until the cheese is completely melted and browning at the edges. Serve with ricotta cheese and garlic toast.

Serves 4-6, with leftovers. Keeps well in the fridge and is even better the next day!

Pro-tip: You can add sausage, peppers, or pepperoni to spice up the mix, or whatever other pizza toppings you and your guests prefer.

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Okay so this is really important——
On the left is the most amazing baked shells with a cashew cheese, and on the right is a book my bff got me for my bday that I took part of the recipe of. This recipe is sort of an elaborated version of fatassvegan’s cashew mozzarella that I kept forgetting to make. When I found this recipe in Purely Vegan I wanted to see if there were any differences so I went over to her blog and PV was lacking some cornstarch, so I decided to take a tip from Maggie and bring that in, and it was a great idea!!

Before I tell you what I adjusted and whatnot, the cheese I made is more like a fluffy crema, mainly because the recipe in Purely Vegan is a cashew-pine nut crema used in a zucchini lasagna (which I totally didn’t use the pine nuts because that shits like $30 a pound.)
But this cheese is so fluffly and decadent and light and just PERFECT? Real cheese never did anything like this.

Anyways here we are:

1 cup Pasta shells or other pasta that holds sauce well

1/3 jar of sauce, eyeballed really.

Cashew Cheese:

1 cup (5 oz) of raw cashews, soaked overnight

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a little extra for thinning the crema (if needed, I added some bc I used a nutribullet since I don’t have a fancy blender)

1 tablespoon of nooch (although I added probably 2-3 more throughout blending, so keep that in mind)

¼ - ½ cup of water, as needed

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

¾ tsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and put a pot of water on to boil.

For the cheese, drain the cashews and rinse them. Mix everything in a blender, starting out with the smallest amount of the recipe and adding for thinning or taste, except the cornstarch, only do ¾ tsp. the result should be a fluffy, off-white substance with a light cheesy taste

Put a little oil into a sauce pan and heat on medium heat. Pour the mixture into the pan and stir constantly with a silicon or wooden spatula until it thickens. Now this mixture will already be thick before you heat it, but you will notice a slightly more thick texture afterwards. I wanna say this took about 2-5 minutes.

When the pasta and cheese is done, drain the pasta and put into a bowl. Add some of the cheese to the pasta and mix. Add a spoonful of tomato sauce and mix again. Put a small amount of tomato sauce in an oven safe pan, just to cover the bottom nicely (make sure its a good size that your dish will fit into, not to big or small) and then add half the pasta mixture. Spoon on some of the cheese sauce, then more tomato sauce, and repeat again. I only layered it twice and still had leftover cheese.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes uncovered and let cool afterwards. It should look like the picture above.


I hope you all like this recipe!


SIDE NOTE: if you have an allergy to nuts, I know that shelled raw sunflower seeds can replace cashews, but I’ve never used them so I’m not sure how that would work.