Portobello Mushroom Burger

This vegetarian, oven-baked, Portobello Mushroom Burger is loaded with healthy veggies and full of bold umami flavor! It’s perfect for busy weeknight dinners and vegan-adaptable.

This oven-baked Portobello Mushroom Burger is loaded with healthy veggies and full of bold umami flavor! It's perfect for busy weeknight dinners and vegan-adaptable.
This vegetarian, oven-baked, Portobello Mushroom Burger is loaded with healthy veggies and full of bold umami flavor! It's perfect for busy weeknight dinners and vegan-adaptable.

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp

Tender mouthwatering Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp is easy and versatile. Serve with coconut rice, in lettuce wraps, or in a rice noodle bowl. Gluten-free.

Tender mouthwatering Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp is easy and versatile. Serve with coconut rice, in lettuce wraps, or in a rice noodle bowl. Gluten-free.
Tender mouthwatering Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp is easy and versatile. Serve with coconut rice, in lettuce wraps, or in a rice noodle bowl. Gluten-free.

Juicy Lucy (Stuffed Turkey Cheeseburger)

A juicy, stuffed Turkey Cheeseburger (known as a Juicy Lucy) is delicious and easy! Instead of topping your turkey burger with cheese, the cheese is stuffed in the center so it stays melted and gooey. Turkey Juicy Lucy I love a good turkey burger on th…

A juicy, stuffed Turkey Cheeseburger (known as a Juicy Lucy) is delicious and easy! Instead of topping your turkey burger with cheese, the cheese is stuffed in the center so it stays melted and gooey. Turkey Juicy Lucy I love a good turkey burger on the grill in the summer, especially with cheese and all […]

Grilled Chicken Caprese

This 15-minute, high-protein, Grilled Chicken Caprese salad is made with grilled chicken breast cutlets, topped with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and balsamic glaze, served over a bed of arugula. Grilled Chicken Caprese If you need dinner ideas fo…

This 15-minute, high-protein, Grilled Chicken Caprese salad is made with grilled chicken breast cutlets, topped with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and balsamic glaze, served over a bed of arugula. Grilled Chicken Caprese If you need dinner ideas for chicken breasts, you will love this easy recipe! During the summer, I love to grill outside, and […]

Chicken Tikka Masala

This easy Chicken Tikka Masala is made with tender chunks of boneless chicken breasts cooked in an aromatic, creamy yogurt-tomato sauce. Chicken Tikka Masala Chicken Tikka Masala is probably the most popular dish on the menu of any Indian restaurant in…

This easy Chicken Tikka Masala is made with tender chunks of boneless chicken breasts cooked in an aromatic, creamy yogurt-tomato sauce. Chicken Tikka Masala Chicken Tikka Masala is probably the most popular dish on the menu of any Indian restaurant in the States. Ironically, this dish originated in the United Kingdom and is considered Britain’s […]

Baked Ziti

This baked ziti uses ricotta, mozzarella, and creme fraîche to make a bubbly, rich pasta with a hearty, spinach-flecked red sauce loaded with flavor. The creme fraîche keeps things silky, adds dimension, and is a game changer. A family favorite that freezes well and happily feeds a crowd.

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I discovered a truly fantastic version of baked ziti in 2017 when I started cooking from Colu Henry’s Back Pocket Pasta. Big, hearty, family-style pastas are a great love of mine, but my baked ziti attempts were always just so-so. I struggled with overall cohesiveness, and the ricotta mixture always tended to bake up a little drier than I hoped. Colu’s technique was a game-changer. She recommends a 50/50 blend of ricotta and creme fraîche in her recipe – it keeps everything silky and rich, and I’ve never looked back. And yep, sour cream will also work in a pinch.baked ziti in a metal tin hot from the oven with lots of melted cheese on top

What Makes Great Baked Ziti?

If you want to make the best baked ziti, focus on two things: how long you cook the pasta, and the sauce. The sauce is king here. You want to use good, flavorful tomatoes, and you want to let everything simmer down into a thick, chunky, vibrant red sauce. A bit of patience is key. See the sauce in the photo below? Keep simmering. On the pasta front, avoid over-cooking in the initial stage, the boil. The ziti will continue cooking as the pasta bakes – you want to arrive at the finish line with perfect pasta. If you overcook during the initial boil, the pasta will become too soft and unstructured.

Baked Ziti: The Ingredients

  • Dried ziti pasta: Use a good-quality dried pasta here. Ziti is the namesake shape to use, but penne is a legit alternative and easier to find tbh. For a bit of added nutrition, explore whole wheat pastas, or pasta made with lentils or chickpeas. As I’ve mentioned in previous pasta recipes, a forever favorite of mine is the Monograno Felicetti Farro Penne Rigate. You can even make baked ziti gluten-free by swapping in one of the GF pastas.
  • Baby spinach: One note here, if your baby spinach has long thick stems, go ahead and snap the biggest offenders off. Aside from that I don’t bother chopping or fussing.
  • Canned tomatoes: Look for good-quality diced canned tomatoes. Note that you’ll need both a 28-ounce *and* a 14-ounce can. I tend to grab fire-roasted for this recipe, but you don’t have to!
    red sauce for baked ziti in a skillet with a wooden spoon
  • Sausage: I rarely buy or cook with fake meat, but this is one recipe where I use Impossible sausage for the meat component. It just helps check all the boxes for a big, family-style baked ziti that everyone can get on board with. Another alternative is to use this mushroom ragù as your sauce, in place of the red sauce with sausage posted below. 
  • Cheeses: Three cheese are in play here. Use fresh mozzarella if possible. It’ll typically be in liquid, and any size is fine – you’ll be tearing it into smaller pieces. For the grated cheese Colu recommends Pecorino Romano, but if you tend to keep Parmesan on hand, go ahead and use that – freshly grated. And the ricotta plays another key roll here, so use one you’d enjoy eating straight – on a cracker or slice of toast.
    ingredients for baked ziti in a baking tin ready to go into oven
  • Creme fraîche: The wildcard in this baked ziti is the addition of creme fraîche. To make your own, you can add 1 tablespoon of cultured buttermilk or yogurt to a cup of heavy cream. Stir well, cover with a clean dishtowel, and allow to sit out on your counter for 12 hours or so, until it thickens. Refrigerate until ready to use. Alternately, you can use sour cream here. It’s tangier, but in a good way!

baked ziti being served on a marble table with drinks and plates

Variations

Here are some favorite variations on this baked ziti that I’ve cooked over the years.

  • Make it Spicy: To make this baked ziti feisty and spicy, add a bit of spicy Calabrian pepper paste (the one I buy most is called Bomba di Calabria) to the sauce after adding the spinach. Go easy, some of these pastes are wildly spicy. But also go stronger than you might otherwise because the sauce will be cut with all that dairy. Taste and adjust.
  • Make it Gluten Free: You can make this recipe gluten-free by using GF pasta in place of traditional pasta. At the time I’m writing this the Impossible sausage is GF, but double check – in case you’re using another brand or their product changes.
  • Baked Ziti with Mushrooms: I do a version of this baked ziti using this mushroom ragù, and it is equally fantastic. Basically, fill a 12-inch skillet to 1/2-inch or so below the rim, and stir in the 5 ounces or spinach. Then proceed with the recipe as written. Basically, don’t skimp on the amount of sauce you’re using.  https://www.101cookbooks.com/mushroom-ragu/
  • Toss in Some Wildcards: A lot of times when making baked ziti, I’ll toss ingredients in on a whim. Whatever I have at hand. A few of the more successful additions include the following: torn olives, lots of lemon or orange zest, extra spinach or herbs, deeply caramelized onions, goat cheese in place of half the mozzarella.

baked ziti in a metal tin

Baked Ziti: Make Ahead Tips

This recipe makes a large pan of baked ziti. We typically eat half and freeze half resulting in easy meals in the coming weeks. The best way I’ve found to freeze baked ziti is to start by refrigerating your baked ziti until it is very cold. This makes it easy to slice into precise, individual portions. Arrange the portions on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer to freezer bags for up to 6 weeks. Reheat, covered in foil, on a baking sheet (or in baking pan), in a 375F oven until bubbly and hot throughout.

back pocket pasta cookbook
colu henry and husband

Back Pocket Pasta & Colu

Colu’s archives are a gold-mine of low lift, fabulous meals. In the years since Back Pocket Pasta was published, she also wrote Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food. You need someone like Colu Henry in your life. When Back Pocket Pasta was published, I wrote, “She’s one of those stylish friends who will tell you where to score the prettiest dresses, help you book the best travel destinations, and happily point you toward your next good read.” She’s the queen of bringing effortless style to the weeknight dinner table and her books are brimming with casual recipes achievable with little more than a reasonably stocked pantry and a bit of seasonal flair. You can follow her here and here.

More Pasta Recipes

 

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Nicoise Salad

I used salmon in place of tuna in this variation of the classic French Niçoise salad! This composed salad contains olives, artichokes, potatoes, green beans, and a whole-grain mustard vinaigrette. Nicoise Salad This easy Salmon Nicoise Salad is a delig…

I used salmon in place of tuna in this variation of the classic French Niçoise salad! This composed salad contains olives, artichokes, potatoes, green beans, and a whole-grain mustard vinaigrette. Nicoise Salad This easy Salmon Nicoise Salad is a delightful twist on the traditional Niçoise salad, which usually includes tuna. This salmon version offers a […]

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

This easy, “set it and forget it” Slow Cooker Pulled Pork comes out so tender and juicy, made from scratch with my homemade BBQ sauce. Slow Cooker Pulled Pork BBQ pulled pork is one of those dishes you can serve all year round. It’s perfect…

This easy, “set it and forget it” Slow Cooker Pulled Pork comes out so tender and juicy, made from scratch with my homemade BBQ sauce. Slow Cooker Pulled Pork BBQ pulled pork is one of those dishes you can serve all year round. It’s perfect for feeding a crowd at potlucks or large gatherings and […]

Greek Orzo Salad

This Greek Orzo Salad recipe is a light and flavorful pasta salad that’s delicious as a side dish or main dish. It’d be perfect with anything you’re grilling this summer! Greek Orzo Salad This easy Greek Orzo Salad is similar to my Greek Pa…

This Greek Orzo Salad recipe is a light and flavorful pasta salad that’s delicious as a side dish or main dish. It’d be perfect with anything you’re grilling this summer! Greek Orzo Salad This easy Greek Orzo Salad is similar to my Greek Pasta Salad but with orzo and smaller diced veggies. I love orzo […]

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini

A special roasted cauliflower inspired by Sara Forte’s new cookbook. It’s wildly delicious – loaded with herbs, dates, nuts, roasted red onions and tossed with a tahini dressing.

Continue reading Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini on 101 Cookbooks

I’ve roasted cauliflower a thousand different ways, but this version, from Around Our Table by Sara Forte, quickly became a weeknight staple after the first time I tried it. A big head of cauliflower is cut into florets that are tossed with a spiced oil and roasted in a hot oven. Red onions and bits of dates are introduced along the way and the whole situation is tossed with lots of herbs, arugula, pine nuts, sesame seeds, and a creamy tahini dressing. It’s wildly delicious.roasted cauliflower on a platter with tahini glaze, mint, herbs, dates and more

Many of you know Sara from her o.g. food blog Sprouted Kitchen. Or maybe you’re a member of the SK Cooking Club? She’s beloved for good reason, creating wholesome, doable, family-friendly recipes while keeping it real. I told her I’d be gifting the book to all the busy parents in my life, and meant it. Here’s a look at her new book, a few of the beautiful spreads, etc.

Around Our table cookbook
Her husband Hugh did all the photography for the book. You’ll recognize his style from their beautiful site. I’ve always loved how fresh, natural, and unfussed their food always looks. Their projects always have family photos paced throughout. I remember (years ago) Sara told me, over lunch one day, that she always wanted her home to be the landing pad for her kids and their friends. That always stuck with me, a wonderful, genuine aspiration. 
Title page of Sprouted Kitchen Around Our table cookbook
table of Contents pages from Around Our table cookbook by Sara Forte Sprouted Kitchen
You can see a couple examples of the gorgeous photo spreads below. And the table of contents above.
Beautiful photo spread example from Sprouted Kitchen Around Our Table cookbookBeautiful photo spread example from Sprouted Kitchen Around Our Table cookbook

Roasted Cauliflower: Part of An Impromptu Dinner Menu

This roasted cauliflower anchored a fantastic (and simple to throw together) dinner spread when Wayne’s parents visited a couple weeks back. I made the roasted cauliflower (recipe below) the day prior and then threw together a few other easy wins for dinner the next night. Aside from the cauliflower, no component took more than five minutes of active time to make, and there wasn’t a bit left for leftovers in the end!

  • A Big Pile of Roasted Potatoes: I cut little potatoes in half, tossed them in a bit of olive oil and roasted them in a hot oven until tender. Whisked a bit of spicy bomba chile paste into some olive oil, and drizzled that over the potatoes on a big plate. Finished with lots of toasted sesame seeds and slivered basil.
  • Mustard Lentils: I covered (dried) French lentils with about 3/4-inch of water and simmered until the lentils were very tender. Then, the cooked lentils were tossed with a generous dollop (2+ tablespoons) of strong French mustard and a couple glugs of Camino red wine vinegar, and a splash of good olive oil. Seasoned with salt and pepper. Topped with canned, roasted cherry tomatoes (in oil), and slivered basil.
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs: I split each egg in half, sprinkled with spices( I used za’atar, but use any fave savory spice blend). Salt to taste. Drizzle with olive oil.
  • Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini: Recipe below. Serve at room temperature.

roasted cauliflower on a platter with tahini glaze, mint, herbs, dates and more

More Cauliflower Recipes

 

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