I’ve only ever been to an Olive Garden a handful of times. What I remember most about it was the baked ziti and how amazing that was. That was my first ever introduction to baked pasta, and I absolutely fell in love!
Baked ziti isn’t a really creative dish, but it is wonderful to share with a group of people, and it is a family favorite. This batch even has a bit of a surprise!
Surprise! There are even little meatballs in this beautifully baked ziti. I love that there is that little surprise in this dish. That will add some extra flavor and texture. Texture is always an important part of any meal. Have fun with this one! This is a GREAT Family meal.
Thanks to Kathleen at Gonna Want Seconds for this wonderful recipe!
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 1/4 Cup
- Plain Dried Bread Crumbs - 1/4 Cup
- Eggs, Large, Lightly Beaten - 2
- Milk - 2 Tablespoons
- Romano Cheese, Grated - 3/4 Cup
- Flat Leaf Parsley, Chopped - 1/4 Cup
- Salt - To Taste
- Black Pepper - To Taste
- Ground Beef - 1 Pound
- All Purpose Flour for Dredging
- Dried Ziti - 1 Pound
- Fresh Basil Leaves, Julienned - 1 1/2 Cups
- Marinara Sauce - 5 Cups
- Whole Milk Ricotta - 3 Cups
- Mozzarella, Shredded - 2 Cups
- Parmesan, Grated - 1/2 Cup
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, eggs, milk, 1/2 cup of the Romano and the parsley, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Add beef and gently combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Shape into bite-size meatballs. Roll each meatball in flour to coat, shaking off excess.
- In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander and set aside. If not using immediately, cover top with plastic wrap so that pasta does not dry out. Do not rinse pasta with water since you want to retain the pasta's natural starches so that the sauce will cling to the ziti.
- In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When almost smoking, add meatballs in batches and without moving or turning the meat, allow it to brown for about 3 minutes. Turn meatballs and brown other side. Continue to cook until all sides are golden brown. Remove meatballs to a plate.
- In a large bowl, combine the Marinara sauce and ricotta and mix well. Add the cooked ziti , fresh basil and meatballs and toss gently.
- In a large greased baking dish (mine was 9 x 13 x 2 1/2inch), pour in pasta mixture. Sprinkle the mozzarella, Parmesan, and remaining Romano all over the top. Place baking dish on top of baking sheet covered with aluminum foil to collect any drippings from the dish. Bake until top is golden brown and bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Check out the original source for this recipe with step-by-step photographs and helpful tips as well as many other delicious recipes at: Gonna Want Seconds.