Butternut Baked Ziti.

Okay so just give me all the butternut squash baked ziti! Seriously look at this fantastic cheesy dish. I realize that right now I need to be in serious turkey and stuffing mode, but HELLO. How can I do that when I’m staring at this lovely sight?  And if we’re being real, this could be […]

The post Butternut Baked Ziti. appeared first on How Sweet Eats.

Okay so just give me all the butternut squash baked ziti!

Butternut squash baked ziti is the ultimate comfort food! Squash, fire roasted tomatoes, parmesan and mozzarella make the best sauce ever.

Seriously look at this fantastic cheesy dish. I realize that right now I need to be in serious turkey and stuffing mode, but HELLO. How can I do that when I’m staring at this lovely sight? 

roasted butternut squash

And if we’re being real, this could be part of your Thanksgiving if you wanted it to! 

Butternut squash baked ziti is the ultimate comfort food! Squash, fire roasted tomatoes, parmesan and mozzarella make the best sauce ever.

Remember my butternut squash shells and cheese recipe? It’s a major hit on the site – one of the most popular recipes! And then I also have a butternut baked penne (with bacon) that’s also delish.

So obviously, since I try to reinvent the wheel of things I love, and since I just couldn’t get enough, I made… butternut baked ziti. 

YES.

Not just any butternut baked ziti. This is loaded with fire roasted tomatoes (my all-time fave!), roasted butternut squash, parmesan, mozzarella, ricotta, herbs – all the good stuff! I did not include sausage or ground beef in mine, but you absolutely could do that. Brown it and throw it in the dish with the rest of the ingredients. 

Butternut squash baked ziti is the ultimate comfort food! Squash, fire roasted tomatoes, parmesan and mozzarella make the best sauce ever.

I got a the wildest craving for some sort of butternut pasta a few weeks ago. It was all I could think about! So I made the butternut skillet shells for dinner and we enjoyed the leftovers for a few days. But it still didn’t curb the craving.

Ever since making this harvest pasta sauce last year, I’ve come to love the combo of fire roasted tomatoes and squash. It’s that whole sweet and savory thing, you know? I rarely want tomato sauce on its own, but pair it with something sweet and I am so there. 

Butternut squash baked ziti is the ultimate comfort food! Squash, fire roasted tomatoes, parmesan and mozzarella make the best sauce ever.

Now, if you haven’t made a butternut pasta dish before, you should know that it’s a little different. It’s not as ooey-gooey, melty and cheesy as traditional mac and cheese or ziti, though this is the closest I’ve ever got to that. The sauce is thicker and heartier, but the flavor is SO good.

I mean, really good.

Oh and it’s filling to the max! Like so satisfying. I love having just a bowl of this for dinner with a greens salad – I’m set. 

Butternut squash baked ziti is the ultimate comfort food! Squash, fire roasted tomatoes, parmesan and mozzarella make the best sauce ever.

This is one of my favorite dishes to make because you can totally make it ahead of time! It is a bit time intensive – you have to roast the squash first, then puree everything together, and then heat it and melt the cheese into a sauce. But it’s 100% WORTH IT. 

And plus, do it ahead! You can bake it ahead of even wait until it’s all assembled and stick it in the fridge. Bake when you’re ready!

Butternut squash baked ziti is the ultimate comfort food! Squash, fire roasted tomatoes, parmesan and mozzarella make the best sauce ever.

I probably won’t be putting this on my Thanksgiving table, since the last time I did something like that (with this lasagna), my family flipped their lids. But it’s definitely going to be a staple for the rest of the fall and winter months.

It’s hearty.

Comforting. 

Ridiculously delicious. 

Butternut squash baked ziti is the ultimate comfort food! Squash, fire roasted tomatoes, parmesan and mozzarella make the best sauce ever.

Perfect for a game day meal, a Sunday dinner, a weeknight (especially if you prep ahead!) or a holiday. I mean, LOOK AT THAT CHEESE.

Butternut squash baked ziti is the ultimate comfort food! Squash, fire roasted tomatoes, parmesan and mozzarella make the best sauce ever.

Seriously, this should be your weekend plan. Now you have plans!

Butternut squash baked ziti is the ultimate comfort food! Squash, fire roasted tomatoes, parmesan and mozzarella make the best sauce ever.

Butternut Squash Baked Ziti

Butternut Baked Ziti

Butternut squash baked ziti is the ultimate comfort food! Squash, fire roasted tomatoes, parmesan and mozzarella make the best sauce ever.

  • 4 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 pound ziti pasta, (cooked)
  • 1 14 ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, (minced)
  • ¾ cup milk, (whatever kind you prefer!)
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, (freshly grated)
  • 4 ounces parmesan cheese, (freshly grated)
  • 1 (8 ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup seasoned fine breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the squash with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread it on a baking sheet and roast until tender and slightly caramelized on the edges, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. While the squash is roasting, cook the pasta according to the directions. When finished, you can run it under cool water to stop it from cooking and also give it a quick spray of olive oil, tossing it, to keep it from sticking together.
  3. Reduce the heat in the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
  4. Place the squash, tomatoes and garlic in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth and creamy. Transfer the mixture to a large saucepan or skillet (make sure it’s large enough to add the ziti!) and add the milk. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring often.
  5. Once the squash mixture is warmed, stir in most of the cheese. Add in small handfuls and stir until completely melted before adding more. I like to do about three quarters of the cheese, saving some for the top. Once the cheese is all melted, taste the sauce and season it more if needed. I like to start with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper if needed.

  6. Add the ziti to the squash sauce and toss well. Transfer all of the ziti into the baking dish. Scoop the ricotta in between the ziti – I like to do spoonfuls folded between the pasta all throughout the dish. Top the ziti with the remaining cheese. Top with the breadcrumbs.
  7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden and bubbly on top. Serve!

Butternut squash baked ziti is the ultimate comfort food! Squash, fire roasted tomatoes, parmesan and mozzarella make the best sauce ever.

Crisped and crunchy burnt cheese is my love language.

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Classic Baked Ziti

As soon as the weather turns cool, I grab the cozy sweaters and start cooking the comfort food, like this Classic Baked Ziti. It’s rich and gooey with its layers of pasta, homemade red sauce with Italian sausage, and three types of melty cheese. Total comfort in a bowl. And the best part is that […]

The post Classic Baked Ziti appeared first on Budget Bytes.

As soon as the weather turns cool, I grab the cozy sweaters and start cooking the comfort food, like this Classic Baked Ziti. It’s rich and gooey with its layers of pasta, homemade red sauce with Italian sausage, and three types of melty cheese. Total comfort in a bowl. And the best part is that Baked Ziti is not fussy. You don’t have to worry about delicate sheet pasta or getting your layers perfect. It’s freeform, messy goodness at its best!

Classic Baked Ziti with Sausage

Overhead view of a wooden spoon scooping baked ziti out of the corner of a white casserole dish

Can I Use a Different Pasta Shape?

If you can’t find ziti (a smooth, tubular shaped pasta), you can substitute penne or rigatoni in this recipe. Rigatoni is the most similar to ziti, the only difference being that it has a ridges and is slightly shorter and wider. 

Can I Add Vegetables to Baked Ziti?

Yes! I almost always add extra vegetables to whatever I’m cooking, but today I decided to go with the classic form of Baked Ziti. If I were to add vegetables, I would probably add some fresh spinach into the sauce and stir until it is wilted. Or, roast some broccoli, zucchini, or eggplant, and then toss that into the sauce. 

Can I Substitute the Sausage?

The Italian sausage adds a lot of flavor to this dish, but there are still a few options for substituting the sausage. You can use ground beef, turkey, or chicken, but you’ll probably want to double the Italian seasoning blend to make up for the herbs that are found in Italian sausage. You can also use a vegetarian Italian sausage alternative, or substitute with a pound of chopped mushrooms.

Front view of a wooden spoon lifting a scoopful of Baked Ziti from the casserole dish

What Should I Serve with Baked Ziti?

Homemade Garlic Bread is awesome with baked ziti, but if you want some vegetables on the side I would go with something like Oven Roasted Frozen Broccoli, or do a simple side salad of mixed greens with Italian dressing, and whatever vegetables you have in your fridge (tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, etc.). 

How Long Does This Last?

This Baked Ziti will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. I highly suggest dividing the leftovers into single servings so they cool quickly in the refrigerator. This recipe makes 8 large servings, so once the servings are cooled completely in the refrigerator, you can transfer a few to the freezer for longer storage. Then each serving is just a quick microwave away from being a filling last-minute dinner!

 

Classic Baked Ziti

Like a freeform lasagna, this Baked Ziti has layers of pasta, homemade red sauce with Italian sausage, and three types of melty cheese!

  • 1 lb. Italian sausage (sweet, mild, or hot) ($3.49)
  • 1 yellow onion ($0.27)
  • 3 oz. tomato paste ($0.27)
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes ($1.00)
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend ($0.30)
  • 1/2 cup water ($0.00)
  • 1 lb. ziti ($1.67)
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt (for pasta water) ($0.05)
  • 15 oz. ricotta ($1.69)
  • 1 cup Italian cheese blend* ($1.15)
  • freshly cracked black pepper ($0.05)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella ($2.29)
  • 1 handful chopped parsley (optional, for garnish) ($0.20)
  1. Brown the sausage in a large skillet or pot over medium heat, until it's brown and crispy on the edges (pork sausage contains a lot of fat, so I didn't add any extra to the skillet).

  2. While the sausage is browning, finely dice the onion. Add the onion to the skillet once the sausage has browned, and continue to sauté over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent.

  3. Add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and 1/2 cup water to the skillet with the sausage and stir to combine. Place a lid on the skillet and allow it to come up to a simmer. Once simmering, turn the heat down and allow it to continue to simmer while you cook the ziti. Stir the sauce occasionally as it simmers.

  4. After getting the sauce started, begin the ziti. Bring a large pot of water with 1/2 Tbsp salt to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the ziti, and let it continue to boil until the ziti is tender (about 7-8 minutes). Drain the ziti in a colander. Shake the colander a bit to shake excess water out of the pasta.

  5. While the pasta and sauce are cooking, prepare the cheese filling. Add the ricotta, Italian cheese blend, and some freshly cracked black pepper (about 10 cranks of a pepper mill) to a bowl and stir to combine. Begin to preheat the oven to 350ºF.

  6. After draining the ziti, return it to the pot and add 1 cup of the red sauce. Stir to coat the cooked pasta in sauce.

  7. Pour half of the ziti to a 9×13" baking dish. Add half of the ricotta mixture on top of the ziti in small dollops. Finally, spoon half of the red sauce and sausage over the pasta and ricotta. It's okay if the ingredients don't cover in a solid layer. Repeat these layers with the second half of the pasta, ricotta mixture, and sauce. Finally, top with 2 cups shredded mozzarella.

  8. Cover the baking dish with foil, making sure it's slightly tented so that it doesn't touch or stick to the melted cheese. Transfer the covered casserole to the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

  9. After baking for 20 minutes, remove the foil, and turn the oven on to broil (keep the casserole on the middle rack, about 10-12 inches from the broiler). Broil for 5 minutes, or just until the cheese is slightly browned. Keep a close eye on the baked ziti as it broils, because broilers can vary in intensity. Top with chopped parsley, if desired, then serve.

*In place of Italian cheese blend you can use a mix of mozzarella and Parmesan.

Scroll down for the step by step photos!

A white plate with baked ziti, garlic bread, and a black fork.

 

How to Make Baked Ziti – Step by Step Photos

Browned Italian sausage in a skillet

Begin by browning 1 pound Italian sausage in a skillet until it is brown and crispy on the edges. Pork sausage has quite a bit of fat in it on its own, so I didn’t add any extra to the skillet.

Diced onion added to the skillet with the sausage

While the sausage is browning, finely dice a yellow onion. Add it to the skillet with the browned sausage and continue to sauté for a few minutes more, or until the onion is soft and translucent.

Crushed tomatoes being poured into the skillet, with sausage, onions, tomato paste, and Italian seasoning

Add 3 oz. tomato paste (half of a 6 oz. can – don’t forget to freeze the rest of the can!), 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend, one 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, and 1/2 cup water. Stir to combine, place a lid on the skillet, and let it come up to a simmer. Once simmering, turn the heat down to low and let it continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, while you begin cooking the ziti.

Boiled ziti in a pot of water with a wooden spoon

Once the sauce is simmering away, begin cooking the ziti. Bring a large pot of water with 1/2 Tbsp salt to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add 1 lb. ziti. Continue to boil the ziti until tender, then drain in a colander. Shake the colander a bit to shake out the excess water.

Ricotta, Italian cheese, and black pepper in a bowl

While the ziti is boiling and the sauce is simmering, make the ricotta cheese blend. Add 15 oz. ricotta, 1 cup Italian cheese blend, and some freshly cracked black pepper to a bowl. Stir to combine. Also begin to preheat the oven to 350ºF at the time.

Sauce being added to cooked ziti in the pot.

After draining the ziti, return it to the pot and add 1 cup of the red sauce. Stir to coat the ziti in the sauce.

First layers of pasta, cheese, and sauce in the casserole dish

Pour half of the sauce coated ziti into a 9×13″ casserole dish. Add half of the ricotta mixture on top of the ziti in small dollops, then add half of the red sauce on top. Don’t worry if the layers don’t cover each other in a solid layer. It doesn’t have to be perfect!

Second layers of pasta, ricotta, and sauce, and final layer of mozzarella

Repeat with a second layer of pasta, ricotta mixture, and sauce, then top with 2 cups shredded mozzarella.

Baked ziti with melted cheese and foil peeled back

Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Make sure the foil is slightly tented so it doesn’t touch the cheese and stick when it melts.

Broiled baked ziti with browned cheese on top

After baking for 20 minutes, remove the foil, turn the oven to broil, and return the casserole to the oven (keep it on the middle rack, about 10-12 inches from the broiler). Broil for about 5 minutes, or just until the cheese is browned on top. Keep a close eye as it broils because broilers can vary in intensity.

Finished baked ziti casserole topped with chopped parsley and a wooden spoon on the side

Garnish with a little chopped parsley, if desired, then serve!

Overhead view of a spoon just beginning to dig into the baked ziti casserole

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