Baked Ziti to Feed a Crowd
I came up with the idea for this recipe because I needed something easy, cheap, and large for a poker night at my house. Lasagna came to mind, but lasagna can be a pain to put together with all that layering. And what is baked ziti but a messy lasagna?
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I didn’t want to use red sauce (I didn’t want to take the time to make my own and let it cook all day and I *really* didn’t want to use jarred sauce), so I replaced that with a creamy, cheese sauce. I love the way it turned out — but of course, I’m definitely a fan of white sauce. It also seemed as if my guests enjoyed it—we only had just enough left over for dinner the next night. It was really good left over, too.
The bad news is that my camera appears to be broken, so I couldn’t take pictures, but believe me, this is some comfort food at its best! [Editor’s Note: 13-years later, I revisited this recipe and took photos. Good news, this recipe is still delicious!]
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I use the quotes on the word white because there *is* some tomato in this recipe, but instead of a thick red sauce, it’s in the form of diced tomatoes.
“White” Baked Ziti
- 2 lbs ziti cooked until al dente
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 medium onion diced small
- 2 small summer squash diced small
- 2 small zucchini diced small
- 1 cup frozen spinach thawed and drained well
- 1 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes drained
- t tbsp fresh thyme chopped
- ½ cup fresh basil torn into small pieces
- 2 oz butter
- 2 oz all-purpose flour
- 1 quart milk use 1%, 2%, or whole
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese grated
- ½ cup aged Provolone cheese grated
- 1 ½ cup ricotta cheese part-skim or whole
- 12 oz mozzarella cheese shredded
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Preheat non stick pan with olive oil over medium heat. Saute half of the onion and half of the garlic for 2 minutes or until translucent. Add the summer squash and zucchini and saute for about 5 minutes until cooked through. Add thyme, diced tomatoes, and spinach. Toss together, add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
- To create the cream sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining onion and garlic to the butter and cook for two minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for a few minutes. Whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. The sauce will start to thicken (it should be able to coat the back of a spoon.) Stir in Parmesan and provolone cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- In a large bowl (or the empty pot you boiled the pasta in), mix the cooked ziti with the vegetable mixture. Add the basil. Add the cheese sauce and stir to coat.
- In a large casserole dish, layer half the pasta, then half the ricotta, then half the mozzarella. Repeat.
- Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until the center of the baked ziti is 165. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes to brown the top of the ziti.