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Easy Cheesy Baked Ziti

As long as there’s pasta and Chinese food in the world, I’m okay. 
 – Michael Chang 

 

Easy Cheesy Baked Ziti is a simple, hearty, crowd pleasing meal that takes ZERO special kitchen skills to have it turn out AMAZING!
You may make everything from scratch or I’ll also walk you through opening jars and pouring…
It’s VERY easy. :)
Easy Cheesy Baked Ziti makes enough to serve 12+ people.
When I have a large potluck or hosting team events, Easy Cheesy Baked Ziti is one of my ace in the hole dishes.
You may use a throw away 13×9 inch pan or that beautiful casserole dish you have lurking in the back of the cupboard. (The Single use foil pans can be found at the .99 Cents Only Store… this means 75% cheaper than the regular market. These toss away pans are excellent for potluck so you have no need to worry about collecting your pans at the end of the evening.) I want to see those cute dishes getting used for a change!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Decide what pan you will be using. (I like to butter my pan lightly to prevent sticking.)
You will need:
40 ounces of marinara sauce…
That’s 5 cups if you are using your own homemade sauce.
(If you would like to know how to make homemade marinara sauce you may do so by reading my article Penne De Prince- omit the ground beef part and like magic you have homemade marinara in no time!)
Homemade is awesome and super budget friendly BUT from a can or a bottle is just as lovely when you are in a hurry or just learning.
You may also use this opportunity, while you are making marinara, to sneak in extra veggies to cook down into your sauce. Such as carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, etc.
Just another way to hike up that nutritional value!
 1 box of Ziti Noodles (cooked according to box instructions)
1 Pound of Ground Beef- Browned 
(Ground Turkey, Ground Chicken or Seasoned Tofu can be substituted)
As I brown my ground beef, I can’t help but season it with Lawry’s Garlic Salt, Seasoned Salt and Pepper.
Yes, Lawry’s should pay me to say such nice things about them ALL THE TIME but alas they have not figured out yet that I’m their biggest dorky fan. ;)
15 ounce container of Ricotta Cheese
That 1 3/4 Cups for those that make their own Ricotta.
High Five DIY Peeps! I’d like to learn how!
1/4 Cup of Finely Chopped Parsley
1 Egg
 3/4 Teaspoon Salt & 1/4 Teaspoon Pepper
 1/2 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese… you may also use the shakeable parmesan in the bottle if that’s what you have on hand.
 16 ounces of Shredded Mozzarella Cheese… sliced mozzarella cheese will work in a pinch but I prefer the way that the shredded cheese melts better.
That’s 2 cups of cheese for those grating away.
We all know I’m Just a Little Nutty anyway so it shouldn’t shock you that my Easy Cheesy Baked Ziti recipe would be just a little opinionated too. :)
Now let’s get dinner going!
You have preheated your oven to 350 degrees… right? Ahem, RIGHT??? OK, we’ll all wait for you while you run and get it preheating.
Hurry Up!  ;)
This will be quick, easy and painless to prep.
Cook the ground meat until it is browned and done.
Boil the ziti noodles according to the package instructions and drain when done.
In a bowl mix together:
The Ricotta Cheese
Chopped Parsley
 Egg
Salt
Pepper
Parmesan Cheese
Mix until all is well blended.
Shred the Mozzarella Cheese if it isn’t already. 
Now that everything is prepared and ready…
Grab the large baking pan.
Place your pan on a cookie sheet if you are using a throw away pan. The dish gets heavy and the cookie sheet will make sure that you can remove your dish safely and easily.
Spoon 1 cup of the Marinara Sauce into the bottom of the pan.
Spread it around until the bottom of the dish is generously coated with sauce.
Place half of the ziti noodles onto the sauce in the pan.
Spoon half of the meat evenly over the noodles.
Spoon half of the ricotta mixture onto your noodles.
You will be dropping the mixture onto your noodles in undignified globs scattered around the pan atop the ziti. No need to worry, it will spread on it’s own and work out well in the end… just drop small globs and trust the process. ;)
Spoon 2 Cups of the marinara sauce evenly over your noodles/ricotta mixture.
Sprinkle 1 cup of Mozzarella Cheese evenly over the top of the sauce.
AND REPEAT…
Place the other half of your noodles on top of the Mozzarella Cheese.
Add the rest of the meat evenly over the top of the noodles.
Glob the rest of the ricotta mixture in a funky pattern again.
Add the last 2 cups of that Marinara Sauce on top.
Last but not least… we’re going to add the last cup of our mozzarella cheese on top.
Now Stick the dish UNCOVERED into the oven to cook for 20-25 Minutes.
** Or until Hot, Bubbly, the Cheese is melted and nicely browned**
WARNING: If the dish you used is FULL to the brim, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to place a cookie sheet on the rack below the pan or under it. I HATE scrubbing my oven because something I cooked leaked! I look at it as a easy lazy precaution- I can be lazy and not scrub my oven IF I take precautions in the begining.
Can’t say I didn’t warn ya! ;)
 Easy Cheesy Baked Ziti is THAT simple.
It allows you to make a large tasty meal for MANY without spending much money.
My Easy Cheesy Baked Ziti costs around $14 to make.
It easily provides 12 generous servings…
For those of you keeping count, that’s $1.16 per person!!
Yup, That’s right!!! Frugal Awesomeness at it’s most tasty!
Pair Easy Cheesy Baked Ziti with a nice salad and garlic bread to complete the meal.
I often serve steamed or grilled veggies instead of bread.
We’re a bit zucchini crazy around here, if you are too try my Super Easy Veggies for a delicious side.
Easy Cheesy Baked Ziti has been served on my table for many years now.
If I know tomorrow is going to be hectic or to prep early for a gathering, I will often assemble this dish, cover with foil and store in my fridge so I can pop it in my oven last minute for a hot homemade meal!
If it’s coming from the fridge chilled- Plan to cook it an additional 5-10 minutes please.
Don’t think twice about inviting the family over for dinner, hosting a party at a meal time or having everyone over for game or movie night anymore!
You got it covered on a dime.
Sit back, enjoy your people and receive compliments on the fabulous cooking!
We don’t need to change the way we wish to live our lives just because we have to stay on a budget.
Party on my friends! :)
Save me some Easy Cheesy Baked Ziti!
Staying Cheesy,
Meg xoxo
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4 comments

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  1. Carole

    Hi there. The current Food on Friday is all about pasta and noodles! So it would be great if you linked this in. This is the link . Have a good week.

  2. Carole

    Thanks for linking in to Food on Friday: Pasta and Noodles. We are getting a fantastic collection of all things pasta and noodles.
    I am now signed up to follow you on Google Reader. A follow back to Carole’s Chatter would be wonderful – or are you already following? Cheers

  3. Leslie

    Pasta is such a crowd pleaser, I mean who doesn’t like it?

    Thanks for sharing your favorite post at Raising Imperfection! We feature our favorites on Friday, make sure to come back and check.
    Leslie
    http://www.violetimperfection.com

  4. Lanaya @ Raising Reagan

    I’m definitely a fan of baked ziti!! I just made a the perfect lasagna for the family about ten minutes ago so I can’t wait to get me some Italian tonight!!

    Thank you for linking to Raising Imperfection.
    Please come back Friday to see if you were featured. :)

    ¤´¨)
    ¸.•*´
    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo
    http://www.raising-reagan.com

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