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Southernized Baked Ziti


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  • For the Meatballs:
  • 1/2 pound of ground beef
  • 1/2 pound of Italian sausage, removed from the casings
  • 1/2 cup of dry bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons of dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • For the Gravy:
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup of chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup of chopped celery
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 pounds of Italian sausage
  • 1 (28 ounce) can of whole tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can of diced or stewed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For the Ziti:
  • 1 pound of ziti pasta
  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 1 large mozzarella ball, or about 4 cups shredded divided
  • 1 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • ad more:
  • Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives
  • Follow us: @DeepSouthDish on Twitter | SouthernRecipes on Facebook



Step 1

For the meatballs, combine ingredients and form into tiny meatballs, about the size of a cherry tomato. Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 10 minutes; set aside.

Meanwhile, for the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, green pepper and celery. Cook until softened but not brown, add the garlic and cook another minute. Remove the sausage from the casings and add to skillet, breaking up the meat to fine crumbles. Cook over medium to medium high heat until lightly browned; drain off any excess fat. Using kitchen shears, roughly chop the tomatoes in the can, and add those along with the Italian seasoning to the skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 30 minutes. Remove 2 cups of the sauce for layering and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and generously salt. Cook the pasta just to al dente according to package directions; drain. Once the ziti has stopped steaming, add it to the remaining sauce and combine well. Taste, add salt and pepper, and adjust seasoning as needed.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large oblong 4 quart baking dish, add half of the ziti mixture. Dollop the ricotta on top of the pasta and top with slices of fresh mozzarella, or use shredded. Reserve one cup or enough slices of the mozzarella for the top. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top of that. Add half of the meatballs. Dot top with 1 cup of the reserved tomato sauce mixture and smear it around. Add the remaining ziti mixture and top with the remaining meatballs and the remaining sauce. Add another layer of mozzarella, reserving some for later, and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese evenly over the top of that.

Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and place a baking sheet on the rack below as insurance for any spillover. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50 to 60 minutes or until bubbly. Uncover, sprinkle the top with the remaining mozzarella cheese and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, or until casserole is bubbly, cheese has melted and center is hot.

Cook's Notes: Substitute your favorite homemade or commercial spaghetti sauce for this dish. You'll want about 4 to 5 cups of sauce. May also be made with the meat sauce only and omit the meatballs.

Read more:
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives
Follow us: @DeepSouthDish on Twitter | SouthernRecipes on Facebook

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