- Food: Baked Ziti with Roasted Vegetables
- Writer: Lizzie Green
- Content-Type: Food Blog
This baked ziti has all of the saucy, mozzarella-topped charms of lasagna, but it’s faster to make on a weeknight. Amen.
I intended to use roasted vegetables instead of spaghetti when I came up with this dish. In the end, I was able to substitute two pounds (32 ounces!) of vegetables for half of the ziti (8 ounces).
I went with cauliflower, red bell pepper, and yellow onion because they have the most tempting golden edges as they roast and the combination is one of my favorites, but you could easily substitute your favorite vegetables.
I struggled for a long time to establish the right balance of mozzarella, marinara, and ricotta (I actually used cottage cheese, more on that in a bit).
With the final recipe, I believe I’ve hit the nail on the head, and I can’t wait to hear how it turns out for you.
Why Baked Ziti is so Delicious?
This baked ziti dish is quite adaptable. Here are some additional reasons why you should like it:
- This vegetarian baked ziti is sure to please. True, it’s vegetarian, but even carnivores enjoy meatless ziti when it tastes this wonderful.
- This baked ziti would be perfect for a date night or a casual get-together. You’ll have plenty of time to speak and drink wine in-between steps.
- It’s also a quiet recipe to prepare. There’s no need to sauté anything! This is an underappreciated recipe quality in my opinion.
- This ziti can be made up to three days ahead of time, making it a great dish to make ahead of time or to bring to a friend who could use a good meal.
- This lighter version of a classic Italian meal has a surprising amount of protein. There are twenty grams in each serving!
- With chopped Italian salad, this ziti would be fantastic. Make a simplified version of it if you like.
Ingredients for Baked Ziti
This recipe does not necessitate a lengthy ingredient list. What you’ll need is the following:
Ziti, rigatoni, or penne is preferred, but rigatoni or penne will suffice. I typically go for whole wheat noodles (DeLallo and Bionaturae are my favorites), but whole wheat noodles have been hard to come by lately, so I used Whole Foods’ organic ziti for these photos.
Pasta comes in one-pound boxes, so you’ll only need half of one.
To make this recipe gluten-free, I believe you could use robust corn and quinoa pasta blend.
I love my homemade marinara, but because this dish is supposed to be simple, I went with a store-bought bottled version. Rao’s is my favorite brand, and it tastes quite similar to my own sauce.
If you prefer to prepare your own marinara sauce, you’ll need to double my recipe to get the four cups needed for this ziti.
Cauliflower, bell pepper, and onion were among the ingredients I utilized. If you’re allergic to onions, you may substitute something different (perhaps a sweet potato?).
This ziti recipe is a great way to use up any leftover vegetables. To make it work, you’ll need around two pounds of prepped vegetables.
Keep in mind that broccoli or cauliflower heads weigh twice as much as the florets they produce (so a two-pound bunch of broccoli will yield about one pound of florets).
You could omit the basil, but it gives the jarred marinara an appealing fresh flavor and brightens up the cheesy completed meal. It is, in my opinion, well worth purchasing!
Part-skim mozzarella is great for this recipe because it turns a lovely golden color in the oven. It also reduces the amount of grease in your finished meal compared to using full-fat mozzarella.
It’s better to grate your own cheese rather than buying pre-shredded cheese (you’ll also save money). Pre-grated cheese is usually coated with starch or powder, which can prevent it from melting properly.
Cottage Cheese (or Ricotta)
I know, it’s scandalous! Even though I can’t like cottage cheese on its own, I prefer it to ricotta in this dish.
When ricotta is heated, it becomes gummy, which irritates me, whereas cottage cheese mysteriously becomes more creamy and delightful. In lasagna recipes, choose whatever one you prefer.
A Few Pointers Before You Begin
- Half-sheet pans should be used. If only everyone had a set of these simple half-sheet pans (affiliate link). They feature a large surface area, allowing your vegetables to breathe while roasting.
- Make certain to use a large baker. For this recipe, you’ll need a three-quart baker (think 913′′ with deep sides). Here’s my contribution. To avoid overflow, I’ve directed you to lay the baker on a clean rimmed baking sheet while it’s baking.
- Make sure your spaghetti isn’t overcooked. In fact, you want it to be slightly undercooked, so cook it for the minimum time recommended on the package. Because it will continue to cook while in the oven, it should still have a little bite when you drain it.
Baked Ziti with Vegetables Roasted
|Time to Prepare: 20 minutes
1 hour to cook
1 hour and 20 minutes total
Serves: 8 servings
Roasted vegetables lighten up this delicious baked ziti dish. This vegetarian ziti is very tasty thanks to golden mozzarella, spicy red sauce, and delicate noodles! This recipe serves 8 people.
- 1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced into wedges about ½″ wide
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1″ squares
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
Pasta and everything else
- 8 ounces ziti, rigatoni or penne pasta
- 4 cups (32 ounces) marinara sauce (homemade or store-bought), divided
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, plus extra for garnish
- 8 ounces (2 packed cups) grated part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
- 2 cups (16 ounces) cottage cheese or ricotta cheese, divided
Instructions For Baked Ziti
- To roast the vegetables, follow these steps: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and place the racks in the middle and top thirds. To keep the vegetables from sticking, line two large, rimmed baking pans with parchment paper.
- On one pan, arrange the cauliflower florets. Combine the bell peppers and onion in a separate pan. Drizzle half of the olive oil over one pan and the other pan with the remaining olive oil. Over the two pans, sprinkle the salt. Toss gently until each pan’s vegetables are lightly coated with oil.
- Arrange the vegetables in each pan in an equal layer. Bake until the vegetables are soft and the edges have caramelized, about 30 to 35 minutes, tossing and switching rack positions halfway through (lower rack to upper rack, and vice versa). Keep the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit because we’ll be baking the dish at that temperature. If there are any stray charred onion pieces left over, toss them out and set the vegetables aside.
- Meanwhile, start boiling a large pot of salted water. Cook the pasta until it is al dente, as directed on the package (it will continue to cook while it bakes in the oven, so you want the pasta to still have a little bite to it). Return the spaghetti to the pot after draining.
- 2 cups marinara sauce, chopped basil, and 12 cups mozzarella cheese to the pasta To blend, gently whisk everything together.
- It’s time to put the pieces together! In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, spread 1 cup more marinara sauce. Half of the pasta mixture goes on top, and it’s carefully smoothed out into an even layer. Sprinkle the roasted cauliflower evenly on top, then dollop 1 cup of cottage cheese over the cauliflower (it doesn’t have to be spread evenly), then 12 cups of mozzarella.
- The leftover pasta should be placed on top of the mozzarella. Sprinkle the roasted peppers and onion on top, then dollop the remaining cup of ricotta on top, followed by the remaining cup of marinara, and finally the remaining cheese.
- To catch any drippings, place a clean, rimmed baking sheet on the lower oven rack. Place the ziti on top of the baking pan, uncovered. Bake for 30 minutes on the lower rack, then move to the upper rack for 2 to 5 minutes more until the cheese is golden brown if desired.
- Before serving, take the baker out of the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes (trust me). Serve with a sprinkling of freshly torn basil on top, sliced thinly with a sharp knife.
- MAKE IT GLUTEN-FREE: Use gluten-free pasta instead of regular pasta (such as a corn and quinoa blend).
- PREPARE THE VEGETABLES AHEAD OF TIME: You can roast the vegetables up to 3 days ahead of time. You may also assemble everything ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator until ready to bake then would also be a wonderful option for freezing before baking. Please let me know if you give it a shot.
- VEGETARIAN/DAIRY-FREE NOTE: Because the cheese provides both volume and structure, I’m not sure if this recipe can be made vegan.