One classic Italian-American cuisine that no one (not even you) can resist trying out is the San Giorgio baked ziti. Full of health benefits, loaded with awesome creaminess, and yummy as can be, this is one you can’t miss. Do you like lasagna but not the fuss associated with it? Then make some baked ziti instead.
It’s a lot like a classic lasagna casserole but easier to make and without layers of broken noodles. This doesn’t mean that lasagna is not an amazing meal—it is. Thanks to Garfield, my love for lasagna keeps growing. Enough about lasagna though, let’s talk ziti, baked ziti!!! How do we do that? With our San Giorgio baked ziti recipe. Be patient, it will come.
San Giorgio baked ziti doubles as a comfort food, bringing back warm memories from years ago when it was a staple at family gatherings and school functions. Physical comfort is not left out, as the taste of this hot, oozing mixture of sauce and cheese will satiate your appetite, especially on a cold day. Yes, it’s best served hot. The praises you’re going to receive from your family and friends for making this is another benefit.
Baked ziti, also known as oven-baked pasta, is a casserole dish known for being a comfort food. It is ziti pasta baked with sausage, an assortment of cheese, and seasoned tomato sauce. A standby for generations in Italian-American restaurants, it is one of those classic Italian pastas we just can’t resist ordering whenever we see it.
Baked ziti can be made using San Giorgio pasta , sausages or meat, seasoned tomato sauce or leftover spaghetti sauce from a previous meal, herbs like basil, rosemary, sage, thyme or parsley, and of course, lots of yummy cheeses to get that taste you so desire in this Italian-American dish.
This dish, alongside other pasta dishes, has a very long history that dates back to the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, where it was served at banquets and the palaces of nobles. Eventually, baked pasta was adopted all over Italy. But much of Italian cuisine is based on regional foods and traditions.
It is widely known that Italy is home to many pasta dishes typically made on Sundays, holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions. And that’s one more reason Italy is one of my favorite places on Earth.
Southern Italy is home to baked pasta dishes loaded with veggies like eggplants and peppers as well as meats cured in the region (like soppressata and sausages). Northern Italy dishes are made up of ingredients like butter, pork fat, heavy starches, and meaty ragu.
Now, oven-baked pasta (baked ziti) is a staple dish in many southern Italian towns. They fondly call it the name ‘piatto unico,’ which is one serving with a dose of carbohydrate, protein, veggies, and dairy. If you don’t fall in love with this dish (which I doubt is possible), at least fall in love with its southern Italian name Piatto unico.
I love the way the name sounds. Piatto unico. Wink-wink.
Baked ziti, also called al forno (another fine name; are you loving the dish already?), is one of the many Italian cuisines that really have no rules. This meal is basically more of a method with variation in ingredients. Baked ziti is either the result of an extremely creative cook or perhaps just the nagging feeling to use up some leftovers.
San Giorgio baked ziti holds nothing back as a lot of what goes into it depends on what is found in your refrigerator or pantry. It’s time to clean out the fridge with this meal! It is a perfect midweek or weekend meal, or one that can be taken along to a potluck dinner.
Family and friends alike cannot and will not be able to resist a serving of this. Since this meal can be made in huge quantities and stored in the refrigerator for later, why not make 2 casseroles and freeze one for another day?
There are lots of tricks to the preparation of this meal with individuals tweaking it to their taste. Some vary the meat or decide to make it a meatless baked ziti; others vary the cheeses or the sauce. Others simply omit the tomato sauce altogether to have a truly cheesetastic casserole.
Imagine the taste!
All you need to make this baked ziti dish even more spectacular of a meal is to add some garlic bread and a simple tossed salad.
How to make baked ziti from San Giorgio pasta
San Giorgio is one of many brands producing pasta of different shapes and sizes, while ziti refers to one of the classic shapes made by San Giorgio. It is a small, hollow-cut pasta that makes up a good part of this casserole. Baked ziti ingredients are primarily made-up of San Giorgio pasta. This baked ziti recipe will serve 8 people. No stress though; it is really quite easy to make.
- 1 package (16 oz.) San Giorgio Ziti, uncooked.
- Olive oil.
- 1 jar (about 24 oz.) spaghetti sauce/tomato sauce, divided.
- 1¾ cups (15 oz.) ricotta cheese.
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese.
- 2 cups (8 oz.) mozzarella cheese, shredded.
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes.
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves.
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder (or small clove garlic, minced).
- ½ teaspoon salt or salt to taste.
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper.
- 1 large onion, chopped.
- 1 pound bulk Italian sausage or ground beef or pork (if making baked ziti with meat).
For a meatless baked ziti, substitute the meat with one egg, slightly beaten.
- Boil a large pot of salted water. Add the ziti and cook at a rolling boil with the pot uncovered until the ziti is al dente, that is, until it is edible but still firm to the bite. After cooking the ziti, drain it through a colander. You can add a few drops of olive oil so the pasta doesn’t stick together while you’re making the sauce. A few people even add olive oil while boiling the ziti.
- While the water is still boiling, you can start preparing the sauce. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan (moderately large) on medium-high heat. When the oil is simmering, add the ground beef or bulk sausage. Break down any large chunks of sausage as it cooks. Wait until it browns well; don’t let it get burnt. Avoid stirring it too often to ensure it browns. Sprinkle with a little salt if you are using ground beef or pork instead of sausages.
- When the meat is mostly brown, you can add the onions, stirring to combine. Sauté everything until the onions become translucent and begin to brown. This will take about 4-5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, parsley, oregano leaves, and the ground pepper, and stir to combine. Cook for a minute and add the spaghetti sauce or tomato sauce and stir well. Bring to a simmer.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, spread in a thin layer of tomato or spaghetti sauce. Then, dot the surface with half of the ricotta cheese. Add a spoonful of sauce to the ziti pasta and mix thoroughly, then add the pasta into the casserole. Pour the rest of the sauce on top of the ziti pasta, spread out the remaining ricotta cheese over the pasta and sprinkle both the mozzarella and parmesan cheese over the top. Cover with foil.
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. The top should be lightly brown with the cheese melted.
- Give your baked ziti a chance to cool, letting it sit about 10 minutes for it to settle. Then you can dig in. You can serve with garlic bread.
Note: Creativity is an important part of making baked ziti. Be creative—don’t restrict yourself to the recipe given above. You can add one or two veggies, extra cheese, and a tinge of one or two herbs to your casserole to make a super tantalizing and exciting dish. Let your imagination be your guide. And don’t forget the egg, if you want a meatless ziti.
Tips To Help You Perfect Your Ziti
- To avoid mushy pasta, ensure you don’t overcook the pasta before baking. The al dente texture is preferred as the liquid in the baking dish will continue the pasta-cooking process while baking.
- Short-cut pasta that is hollow like ziti makes for the right texture for your baked pasta. If you have to alternate, you can use rigatoni or penne, aslo available from San Giorgio’s brand. These are perfect for holding on to the sauce and other ingredients.
- If you do not have any of the herbs like oregano leaves, parsley, or dried basil, but you do happen to have Italian seasoning in your pantry, what are you waiting for? Using a tablespoon will give you the desired outcome you envision.
- If you’re making the meal from scratch and you have no spaghetti or tomato sauce then no worries, you can alternatively make use of marinara sauce. The same quantity as is in the recipe will do the job.
- And finally, for a meatless baked ziti, replace the second and third steps with what I’ll give you now:
After preparing your pasta, stir together the hot cooked pasta, tomato or spaghetti sauce, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, parsley, egg, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper. In the baking dish, spoon in the pasta mixture and top up with the sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and cover with foil.
Directions To Make it Ahead of Time: This is one recipe that can be prepared ahead of time, especially for that outing you have or that family gathering you’re preparing for. To do so, prepare the recipe as directed, but do not bake. Then, cover the pan with plastic and wrap it with foil. You can refrigerate for up to 24 hours or until you’re ready to eat, or better still, you can freeze this for up to 2 months. That being said, I wonder what it will be doing there in your fridge for 2 whole months. Come on!!!
When you’re ready, just thaw the frozen version in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the plastic and replace foil. You can then remove it from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking or you can bake as directed, adding about 10 minutes to the baking time.
Is baked ziti fattening?
Now, if you just asked this question, I’m sorry to say that I can’t give you a yes or no answer. We all know baked ziti is a staple comfort food, so with loads of full-fat ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses you’re probably going to add while making it, you’ll surely rack up a lot of calories and saturated fat from just one serving.
However, it all depends on how you prepare it. Referring to the recipe given above, it all depends on how much you eat. So take extra care not to lose yourself in this delightful comfort food. Lean or extra-lean ground beef will make for a healthier version. Mushrooms are also a great add-in for meatless baked ziti.
Since one cup of plain cooked pasta has about 180 to 200 calories, your baked ziti calories will surely depend on the recipe. You will get around 300 calories from a serving of this baked ziti recipe.
I hope you’ve been able to gather up enough food-courage to make this delicious creamy baked goodness. Don’t only rely on going to a restaurant to get your fix of this dish; put your cooking skills to work. I hope this San Giorgio baked ziti recipe has been helpful and your meal comes out wonderful!