A hearty Italian dish with ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, and ground beef.
This baked ziti with ground beef? Fugget about it
Italian food is probably my favorite thing to make. A nice glass of red wine, a plate of hot, steamy, cheesy baked ziti with ground beef is a Sunday night in heaven. When it’s just my husband, Arya (our cat), and I, I’ll typically make a meaty spaghetti or chicken parm. But there is no better way to feed a group of pasta loving fanatics than a big tray of ziti.
I first started making ziti after reading about it in the Sopranos Cookbook of all places. My husband got it as a gag gift after we watched the show, but it turned out to have a lot of good recipes in it.
I’ve since adapted it to my own desires, substituting cheeses, flavors, and sometimes the meat components. Carmela bakes her ziti too long in my opinion, I only bake it a little more than half her recommended time. All the ingredients are cooked and hot by the time it goes into the oven!
Keeping it Cheesy
A lot of recipes are so-called 5-cheese ziti recipes. In truth, I don’t think you can ever put too much cheese in ziti, though today we’ll only use ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella. Feel free to add any other cheese that catches your fancy. Soft cheeses like goat cheese and feta are probably best mixed in like the ricotta, and cheeses like cheddar might go well on top.
The sauce on tomato sauce and tomato paste
Another reason I love Italian food is because I get to use my home grown tomatoes. We’re something of tomato nuts, and jar about 50-70 quarts of tomatoes every season. We jar them with different spices like basil, sage, or oregano. Last year we started smoking some of the tomatoes, which adds a very dynamic flavor to our sauces.
We also like to make tomato paste from the scraps, and then freeze them into ice-cream scoop balls. This makes it really easy to always have tomato paste on hand! I’ll post a tutorial when the tomato harvest comes in.
Let’s bake some ziti with ground beef!
I start off by getting a pot of water boiling, while I’m working on defrosting and browning the beef. When the noodles are done, drain them and set aside. You should mix a teaspoon or two of oil into them so they don’t stick while we make the rest.
Set your burner to medium high heat, and be sure to use a deep pan or Dutch oven as all of the sauce will eventually end up in the pan.
Continue by browning the ground beef. For this meal, I don’t usually spice the ground beef at all, but feel free to add salt, pepper, and Italian spices as desired.
After the meat is browned, remove it to a plate with some paper towel to soak up any excess fat. I also drain the beef fat from the pan, though you can leave some in for extra flavor.
Put down some olive oil and add your sliced onions. I always salt the onions a bit at this point. Stir them as needed to prevent burning and sticking, you’re looking for the onions to become a bit golden and translucent. At this point add the minced garlic and cook another minute longer.
Now add in the wine, and give it a stir. You might pour a glass for yourself at this point. Let the pan cook for another minute, then add back in the ground beef. Cook for another minute.
Now add your tomatoes, a pinch more salt, and then stir. I don’t go overboard with the spicing, because the wine adds a lot of flavor to the pot.
At this point, we’re going to cook it for a while to help the flavors meld and to thicken the sauce up. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Now add in a couple tablespoons of tomato paste, stir it in, and let it cook for a few minutes more. This will help thicken the sauce further. If your sauce still looks thin, cook for a while longer.
Now, set out your casserole dish, and spray with cooking spray. Bring the noodles, sauce, and cheeses close by, as we will start layering them.
We will layer the ingredients twice: sauce -> noodles -> sauce -> cheese, then repeat. Before adding the second cheese layer, pour on any remaining sauce in your pan. For the cheese layers, I spread on the ricotta with a spatula, then sprinkled a portion of the parmesan and mozzarella on top.
Bake at 400F for around 40 minutes, or until the cheese is sufficiently golden on top. I highly recommend placing the casserole dish on a baking sheet to catch any overflow as it bakes.
Then serve and enjoy 🙂
Recipe for Baked Ziti with Ground Beef
Baked Ziti with Ground Beef
- 1 Deep frying pan or dutch oven
- 1 9x13" casserole pan
- 1 Pot to boil noodles
- 1 lb ground beef
- 16 oz dry ziti (1 typical box)
- 32 oz whole peeled tomatoes
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella, shredded
- 4 oz shredded parmesan Fresh grated if you can
- 16 oz ricotta cheese
- ¾ cup Cabernet Sauvignon I used J Lohr cabernet sauvignon
- 1 white or yellow onion
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- salt to taste
- Start a pot of water for the noodles, and begin cooking noodles while working on the other steps. When the noodles are done, drain, and mix with a couple teaspoons of oil to keep the noodles from sticking.
- Heat pan to medium high heat, and brown the ground beef.
- Remove the beef and drain off the fat from the pan. Put down some olive oil and start frying the onions. Add a pinch of salt to taste.
- After the onions become golden and semi-translucent add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add the wine to the pan, cook for a minute, then add the ground beef. Cook for another minute.
- Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt to taste. Cook for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add some tomato paste. If still not thick enough, continue to simmer.
- Layer out the ingredients in the pan twice: sauce -> noodles -> sauce -> the three cheese -> repeat. Before adding the final cheese layer, pour any remaining sauce over top.
- Bake at 400F for 40 minutes, or until the cheese is golden. Place a baking sheet under the casserole dish to catch any drips.