Classic Baked Ziti Recipe: A UK Twist

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Baked ziti is a dish that transcends borders. In the UK, it might not be as traditional as a Sunday roast, but its cheesy, comforting goodness has won over hearts (and stomachs) everywhere. This recipe is your guide to creating the perfect baked ziti, packed with flavour and guaranteed to satisfy.

Ingredients:

BA’s Best Baked Ziti

1 box (400g) penne pasta (or another short-cut pasta like rigatoni)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 500g lean ground beef (or vegetarian mince for a meat-free option)
  • 1 (400g) can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes with basil, oregano, and garlic (Italian-style chopped tomatoes)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, for a bit of heat)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 500g ricotta cheese
  • 250g mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease a large baking dish (around 9×13 inches).

    2. Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne pasta and cook according to package instructions for al dente (usually around 8-10 minutes). Drain the pasta and set it aside.

    3. Sauté the vegetables: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant.

    4. Brown the meat: Add the ground beef to the skillet and break it up with a spoon as it cooks. Cook until browned throughout, about 5-7 minutes. Drain any excess fat using a colander.

    5. Simmer the sauce: Return the browned meat to the skillet. Add the chopped tomatoes, diced tomatoes with herbs, tomato paste, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes (if using). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    6. Assemble the baked ziti: In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, ricotta cheese, grated mozzarella cheese, and half of the Parmesan cheese. Toss everything together until well combined.

    7. Layer it up: Pour half of the tomato sauce into the prepared baking dish. Top with half of the pasta mixture. Spread the remaining sauce over the pasta and finish with the remaining pasta mixture. Sprinkle the top with the leftover Parmesan cheese.

    8. Bake it up: Bake the assembled baked ziti in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly on top.

    9. Let it cool and serve: Remove the baked ziti from the oven and let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. This allows the cheese to set slightly and prevents burning.

    Nutrition Facts (per serving, approximate):

    Calories: 600-700 (depending on the fat content of your meat and cheese)

  • Fat: 30-40g
  • Saturated Fat: 15-20g
  • Carbohydrates: 60-70g
  • Protein: 30-40g
  • Sodium: 800-1000mg (depending on the salt content of your ingredients)
  • Note: These are just estimates, and the actual nutritional content of your baked ziti will vary depending on the specific ingredients you use.

    Conclusion

    Baked ziti is a crowd-pleasing dish that’s perfect for weeknight dinners, potlucks, or any time you’re craving a cheesy, comforting meal. It’s easy to customise to your preferences – add different vegetables, try different types of cheese, or spice it up with a pinch of chilli flakes. With its simple ingredients and straightforward process, this recipe is sure to become a go-to in your kitchen.

    FAQs

    1. Can I use a different type of pasta?

    Absolutely! While penne is a classic choice for baked ziti, any short-cut pasta like rigatoni, rotini, or even elbow macaroni will work well.

    2. Do I need to use ricotta cheese?