Serves a Crowd

Meaty Baked Ziti with Fresh Ricotta

March 13, 2011
4 Ratings
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

As an Italian-American, I was raised on that oh-so-comforting combination of meat, cheese, tomatoes and pasta. Growing up baked ziti was something my dad made to use up leftover ziti, and I saw it more in pizza parlors than my home. But recently I've developed a taste for this classic (way more American than Italian) and have started making my own. Dollops of fresh ricotta are what really make the dish for me, and the mozzarella must be good as well - none of that rubbery supermarket variety. I love to make Spaghetti Bolognese, and so essentially adapted that recipe for baked ziti. My own special touch: adding sauteed spinach in with the meat. —kmartinelli

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound ziti or penne (I prefer DeCecco pasta)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 12 ounces spinach
  • 8 tomatoes, chopped (or 1 35-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes, chopped)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 10 ounces fresh ricotta
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, shredded
  1. Cook the ziti in a large pot of boiling water until just al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring frequently to break up the pieces, until browned and mostly cooked through. Add the spinach and mix in until wilted.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a separate pan. Add tomatoes and cook over moderate heat until the juices have released and a light sauce forms. Add this (or canned tomatoes) to meat mixture and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Preheat oven to 350F. Spoon ziti and sauce mixture into a large baking or casserole pan. Top with evenly spaced dollops of the fresh ricotta and cover with shredded mozzarella. Bake until the cheese has melted completely and is lightly brown. Cut into squares and serve immediately.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Liz
  • ScottPD
  • AntoniaJames
  • kmartinelli
A native New Yorker, I recently moved to Be'er Sheva, Israel with my husband while he completes medical school. I am a freelance food and travel writer and photographer who is always hungry and reads cookbooks in bed.

4 Reviews

Liz June 25, 2017
ScottPD November 5, 2014
Epicurious passed me through on dinner ideas for tonight and boy, food52 delivered. I followed the recipe pretty closely, subbing Bison ground beef and fat free ricotta coupled with yogurt cheese as a topper. Odd measurements - 35 oz peeled tomatoes? Same for ricotta, given the Wegmans options for can sizes. Ran a little light on the tomatoes so ran out for a bit of a sauce boost (put it on the plate under the baked ziti). Very easy to make, super tasty. This is gonna be a go-to fer sure. I coupled it with my garlic toast and it was a huge hit. Thanks for the recipe. A great initial welcome to I'll be back.
AntoniaJames March 13, 2011
My son, who just arrived home from college for spring break, adores baked ziti, so this is particularly timely. Thank you for posting it!! I will definitely put it on the menu this week as I'm certain it will be a big hit here. ;o)
kmartinelli March 14, 2011
Oh great! Yes, it's definitely one of those comfort food home from college type dishes. Hope it turns out well!