Whenever something big happens in my life, I make warm dishes meant for sharing like baked ziti and invite my family and my friends over. That’s who I am, a sharing kind of girl. But sometimes, I just feel like eating a whole tray of lasagna or pasta of any kind all by myself, not sharing it with anyone. Guilty!
On second thought, were I not to eat a lot, how could I share these hearty and warm recipes with you? Maybe I’m not guilty after all!
Ziti, Penne… or Pasta in general
Lots of people ask whether using penne is okay. My answer is not to take the names too seriously. Although the name of the dish is “Ziti”, you don’t have to reject other types of pasta and seek only those with the word “Ziti” on the package.
Pasta comes in tons of varieties, and in contrast to the common belief that the look is just for decorating, each kind has a certain use. I’d like to debunk the mystery behind the different ‘strains’ of pasta by listing them out as follow:
Pasta in thin sauce: Long, thin pasta or small ones with rough surface goes well with thin sauce. Their shapes let themselves hold on to enough sauce and their texture is just about right, not too thick to make the dish carby.
Examples: Spaghetti, Bucati, Vermicelli, Ballerine, Canestrini, Farfalle…
Pasta in thick sauce: Thick sauce requires the pasta to have a larger surface that it can stick onto. Those fitting these criteria involve long, wide pasta, big ones with a rough surface or even tube-or-bowl-shaped pasta.
Examples: Maccheroncini, Perciatelli, Margherite, Fettuccine, Ziti, Penne…
Pasta in chunky sauce: “Chunky” refers to bits of meat or veggies in the sauce that you could chew on. These bits won’t stick easily onto the pasta. Therefore, the pasta must be small enough (but not too small, though) to be scooped out along with the sauce using a spoon, or it must have unique features to hold the bits of meat. For example, Fusillis are long and twisted in shape, really helping in holding the meat chunks.
Examples: Ziti, Gnocchi, Macaroni, Radiatori, Fusilli…
Pasta in soups & salads: Remember what I told you, not to pick too small “particles” of pasta to eat with chunky sauce? They are perfect to be served in soups and mixed with salads. They’re super small, cute, and absolutely fill you up without you even noticing!
Examples: Alfabeto, Stellette, Gratini…
Stuffed pasta: Huge tube-like or shell-like pasta is perfect for stuffing. You could either bake them in the oven or boil and serve with thin sauce like Ravioli or Mezzelune.
Examples: Conchiglioni, Paccheri, Lumaconi…
Do check out the list of pasta types if you need, because there are a LOT of them, and we still have to get to the recipe!
Baked Ziti without Oven
There have been times when I got lazy and didn’t want to use the oven at all, especially when I just got home from work. Handling hot oven handles would be too much for my clumsy brain. At those times, I exclusively accept my trusty pans and electric stove as my only companions.
This recipe requires “baking”, but it’s also possible to make this pile of pasta doused with cheese and tomato sauce in just one pan. Simply follow the steps below, but when it comes to assembling your baking dish, place everything in a deep skillet instead and put it on low heat. It should come out warm and comforting, just as it is originally.
Reheating Baked Ziti
I do not reheat my food by microwaving, because the process of reheating food requires greater care than the crude application of heat. What I usually do is drizzle some extra tomato sauce onto the pasta and some underneath, place on the stove, put it on low heat and wait until steam comes up. It comes out more moist and feels like more of a dish to taste than a hot mess to devour.
Baked Ziti Recipe
- 16 oz. ziti pasta uncooked
- 24 oz. OLIVO by CLASSICO Traditional Pasta Sauce
- 15 oz. POLLY-O Original Ricotta Cheese
- 8 oz. KRAFT Shredded Mozzarella Cheese divided
- 1/4 cup KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Heat oven to 350ºF.
- Cook pasta as directed on package with unsalted water. Drain pasta but keep about 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.
- In a large bowl, mix pasta sauce, ricotta and reserved pasta cooking water. Add the cooked pasta and 1/2 cup mozzarella in; mix lightly.
- Spoon into 13×9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover with foil.
- Bake for 30 minutes then uncover. Bake for another 10 minutes or until heated through.