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Million Dollar Baked Ziti

The Culinary Extravaganza: Million Dollar Baked Ziti

Embark on a gastronomic journey with our Million Dollar Baked Ziti – a dish that’s not just a meal but a symphony of flavors and textures that elevates the humble ziti to a culinary masterpiece. With layers of rich marinara sauce, creamy ricotta, perfectly cooked ziti pasta, and a generous topping of gooey melted cheese, this recipe promises to be the star of your dinner table. Whether you’re hosting a special occasion or craving comfort food on a cozy night in, Million Dollar Baked Ziti is a delightful indulgence that lives up to its name. Join us as we explore the art of crafting this extraordinary baked pasta dish, uncovering the secrets that make it a million-dollar experience.

Ingredients

For the Marinara Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Baked Ziti:

  • 1 pound ziti pasta, cooked al dente
  • 1 pound ground beef or Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

For Garnish:

  • Fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Additional grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Marinara Sauce Preparation:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add chopped onions and sauté until translucent.
  3. Stir in minced garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, basil, sugar, salt, and pepper.
  5. Simmer the sauce for 20-30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.

Baked Ziti Assembly:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. In a skillet, brown the ground beef or Italian sausage in olive oil until fully cooked. Drain any excess fat.
  3. Combine the cooked ziti pasta with the marinara sauce and the cooked meat.
  4. In a baking dish, layer half of the ziti mixture.
  5. Dot the ricotta cheese over the ziti layer and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  6. Add the remaining ziti mixture on top.
  7. Cover the entire dish with shredded mozzarella cheese.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  9. Garnish with chopped fresh basil and additional grated Parmesan cheese before serving.

Cook Notes

Perfect your Million Dollar Baked Ziti with these expert tips:

  1. Al Dente Pasta: Cook the ziti pasta al dente to ensure it retains a firm texture after baking.
  2. Layering Technique: Create even layers for a harmonious distribution of flavors in every bite.
  3. Flavorful Marinara: Allow the marinara sauce to simmer for sufficient time to enhance its depth of flavor.
  4. Cheese Melting Perfection: Keep an eye on the oven to prevent overcooking the cheese, aiming for a golden and bubbly topping.

Variations

Customize your Million Dollar Baked Ziti experience with these delightful variations:

Vegetarian Delight:

Omit the meat and add sautéed vegetables such as bell peppers, mushrooms, and spinach for a vegetarian version.

Three-Cheese Extravaganza:

Experiment with a variety of cheeses like fontina, provolone, or asiago for an even richer cheese profile.

Spicy Kick:

Incorporate red pepper flakes or diced jalapeños into the marinara sauce for a spicy twist.

Keto Versions

Indulge in the Million Dollar Baked Ziti experience while adhering to your keto lifestyle with these low-carb adaptations:

Zucchini Noodles Swap:

Replace traditional pasta with zucchini noodles for a keto-friendly alternative.

Cauliflower Rice Option:

Use cauliflower rice in place of ziti for a low-carb, grain-free version.

Almond Flour Binder:

Add almond flour to the ricotta for a keto-friendly thickening agent.

In conclusion, Million Dollar Baked Ziti is a celebration of hearty flavors, satisfying textures, and the joy that comes from a comforting baked pasta dish. This recipe takes the classic ziti to new heights, making it a culinary experience that feels like a million bucks.

As you embark on the journey of making Million Dollar Baked Ziti, revel in the simplicity of the ingredients and the transformation that occurs in the oven. This is not just a recipe; it’s an ode to the beauty of baked pasta, a tribute to the joy of gathering around a shared meal, and a reminder that sometimes, the most satisfying dishes are the ones that capture the essence of comfort and flavor.

So, preheat your oven, gather your ingredients, and get ready to savor the richness of Million Dollar Baked Ziti. It’s more than a meal; it’s a culinary extravaganza, a million-dollar experience that will have you coming back for seconds and sharing the joy with those you hold dear. Million Dollar Baked Ziti – where every bite is a taste of indulgence!

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