Baked ziti is known as the lazy man’s lasagna. It has all the same ingredients as lasagna, but without the hassle of layering. What if I told you I made the lazy man’s lasagna even lazier without compromising any flavor and with fewer dishes to wash?
Enter No-Boil Baked Ziti, a perfect baked pasta that doesn’t require you to boil the noodles beforehand. All you have to do is mix uncooked pasta with tomato sauce, water and lots of cheese. Then toss into a casserole dish and bake.
It starts with a delicious homemade marinara sauce. Hear me out before you ask how making a sauce from scratch is supposed to be easier. This sauce takes just 15 minutes to pull together, but tastes like it’s been simmering all day. My secret is to add double-concentrated tomato paste (the stuff in the tube, not the can). It gives it that intense tomato flavor you’d find in a traditional marinara without the long cook time. I like to cook it until it’s a deep red color and caramelized to boost the umami flavor. If you’re truly opposed to making your own sauce, feel free to substitute a good quality jarred sauce.
I’m a firm believer that baked ziti should have some sort of meat in it. I like to use ground chicken or turkey sausage because it feels decadent without the calories of pork sausage. You can ask your butcher for loose, ground poultry sausage or buy it in pre-packaged links. Just be sure to remove the casing before cooking.
After the marinara is made, it’s time to get mixing. Simply stir together the meat sauce with uncooked pasta noodles, water, ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Instead of using the bags of pre-shredded mozzarella, I like to buy it in block form, dice it into cubes and toss that into the dish. That way, when you dig in you find secret pockets full of gooey, warm cheese. Lastly, I stir in fresh basil leaves to add brightness and a fresh herb flavor.
The next time you’re looking for a weeknight dinner, look no further than this super simple no-boil baked pasta dish.
No-Boil Tomato Basil Baked Ziti
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound loose, ground turkey or chicken sausage
2 tablespoons double-concentrated tomato paste
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
8 ounces ziti pasta (can substitute penne pasta)
2 cups water
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
12 ounces low-moisture mozzarella, diced into 1/4-inch cubes (about 2 cups), divided
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
Red pepper flakes, optional
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.
3. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt.
4. Add ground sausage and cook for 5 minutes, until browned and cooked through. Drain off any excess oil.
5. Add tomato paste and cook until it turns a deep red and starts to caramelize, about 2-3 minutes. Stir often to prevent it from burning.
6. Add canned tomatoes, Italian seasoning and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Let simmer for 5 minutes then transfer to large bowl.
7. Add uncooked noodles, water, Parmesan, ricotta, 1 1/2 cups cubed mozzarella, beaten egg and basil leaves.
8. Transfer to a greased 9×13-inch baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
9. Remove cover, top with remaining mozzarella and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until ziti has set and mozzarella has melted.
10. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with red pepper flakes if desired.