This post may contain affiliate or referral links. Please see our full affiliate disclosure here.
Now that fall is here, it’s time for comfort food and loose yoga pants. Having plenty of leftovers for warm, hearty lunches is also a big bonus! So, to me, a big pan of pasta is one of the ultimate comfort foods. One of my family’s favorites is this easy, delicious, cozy baked ziti recipe that you have to try.
In addition to being comforting on those cool fall and winter evenings, this big pan of baked ziti also leaves plenty of warm, comforting leftovers.
For my baked ziti, I make my own sauce and will show you how easy it is to do. Of course, you could use sauce from a jar if you prefer, but making sauce really is simple. Your patience will be rewarded in the end. Trust me.
For this tomato sauce, gather up your ingredients (the full recipe is below): olive oil, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, a medium onion, three cloves of garlic, crushed red pepper, bay leaves, oregano, Italian seasoning, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper.
Put a liberal amount of olive oil in the bottom of the pan. When hot, add diced onion, minced garlic, and crushed red pepper to the pan. Cook until the onions are fragrant and translucent, then add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, two tablespoons of tomato paste, and the dried spices. Let it simmer, stirring occasionally for at least an hour and a half, but the longer the better.
That’s it! You’ve just made homemade tomato sauce. Simple, right?
Once the sauce if ready, boil the pasta according to the package directions. I like to use rigatoni, but ziti and even penne are also great choices. Even rotini could work in a pinch.
Once the pasta is cooked al dente, drain and transfer it to a large bowl that gives you plenty of room to stir all of the ingredients together. Then add the sauce, ricotta, and mozzarella cheese. Stir to combine and transfer to a baking dish; 9×13 works well.
Cover with the reserved mozzarella cheese and a little parsley for color and bake covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes. When you’re done, you have a delicious, cheesy pan of baked ziti that the whole family will love!
The best thing about this recipe is that you will have leftovers, and who doesn’t love leftovers?
- 2-3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tbsp parsley
- 1/2 tsp coarse ground pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 14.5 oz diced tomatoes
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 3 cloves of garlic (minced)
- a pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 medium onion (chopped)
- 16 oz pasta (rigatoni, ziti, penne)
- 8 oz grated mozzarella cheese (reserve a heaping cup)
- 15 oz container ricotta cheese
- dried parsley for garnish
1. Coat a hot pan with olive oil
2. Add diced onion, minced garlic, and crushed red pepper to the pan. Cook until the onions are fragrant and translucent
3. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, two tablespoons of tomato paste, and the dried spices.
3. Let it simmer, stirring occasionally for at least an hour and a half. The longer the better.
1. Cook pasta (ziti, rigatoni, penne) according to package directions. Drain and pour in a large bowl.
2. Add sauce, mozzarella (reserve a heaping cup), and ricotta cheese. Mix well.
3. Pour in a 9x13 baking dish, cover with reserved mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with parsley.
4. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes to fully melt the cheese.
5. Let sit for 10 minutes, serve.