I love Baked Ziti Casserole when it’s made with crushed tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. The cheese and tomatoes just go together so perfectly. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it!
Two things I always have in the pantry are all kinds of noodles and cans of crushed tomatoes. It’s so easy to whip up a last minute dinner when I do. This particular recipe can be made with or without meat. My family tends to like a bit of meat in it.
One time saver I usually do is make up batches of unseasoned browned ground beef and freeze them in ziplock bags. Then, when I need some at the last minute, I can quickly defrost it and throw it in the meal.
A few days before I made this ziti, we had french toast pizza. Not only is that a delicious meal, but it’s so easy to make, too. However, after making the pizza, I had quite a bit of left over fresh mozzarella.
There is nothing like fresh mozzarella. It just melts so beautifully. It beats the low moisture stuff hands down. So instead of adding shredded mozzarella, I sliced up the fresh one and put it on top of the ziti. Then, after about 15 minutes of baking, I turned on the broiler and let it get a little brown and bubbly.
Ingredients to make Ziti Casserole
- 3/4 to 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb penne noodles
- 15 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 4 oz can tomato sauce
- 2 teaspoons parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- fresh mozzarella cheese or 8 oz of shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
How do you make a Baked Ziti Casserole?
This recipe is so easy. If you’re in a fix for dinner, this is a perfect weeknight meal you can whip together that’s hearty and filling.
Preheat oven to 350.
Cook the noodles per the package.
Brown the ground beef.
Combine crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce with the ground beef in the pan and set to medium heat.
Next, add Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and Italian seasoning to the sauce mixture.
Once the sauce is bubbling, remove from heat.
Add 1/2 cup whole milk mozzarella cheese and mix into the sauce until it’s completely melted.
Spray a 2-qt casserole dish with olive oil. Then, add the noodles.
Next, add the sauce mixture to the noodles until well combined.
Slice and layer the rest of the fresh mozzarella all over the top of noodles.
Bake for 15 minutes until cheese is completely melted. Then, turn on the broiler for 3-4 minutes to brown it just a little.
Remove from oven, let sit for 5 minutes, then serve.
Can you substitute something else for the mozzarella cheese?
Yes, you can use a bag of shredded low moisture mozzarella. I just prefer fresh mozzarella cheese or whole milk. I think it has a better flavor. But, I’ve definitely used the regular low moisture mozzarella cheese many times.
Can you substitute any other pasta noodles with this meal?
Yes you absolutely can. I have made this pasta casserole dish with all kinds of noodles – rotini, elbow pasta, shells. I have even made it with spaghetti and angel hair. You can find a similar recipe for my million dollar spaghetti casserole here that has a few extra ingredients.
How do you store leftovers for this ziti?
I keep my leftovers in sealed containers for up to 4 days in the fridge.
This recipe is one of those that reheats wonderfully, so it’s really good for a lunch meal prep. You can make it on Sunday, portion it out into containers, and reheat at work for a delicious hearty lunch.
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Baked Ziti Casserole
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Cook the noodles per the package.
- Brown the ground beef.
- Combine crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce with the ground beef in the pan and set to medium heat.
- Next, add Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and Italian seasoning to the sauce mixture.
- Once the sauce is bubbling, remove from heat.
- Add 1/2 cup whole milk mozzarella cheese and mix into the sauce until it's completely melted.
- Spray a 2-qt casserole dish with olive oil. Then, add the noodles.
- Next, add the sauce mixture to the noodles until well combined.
- Slice and layer the rest of the fresh mozzarella all over the top of noodles.
- Bake for 15 minutes until cheese is completely melted. Then, turn on the broiler for 3-4 minutes to brown it just a little.
- Remove from oven, let sit for 5 minutes, then serve.
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