If you are looking for a delicious make-ahead dish to feed a crowd, then I have the perfect recipe for you, Easy Make-Ahead Baked Ziti!
This yummy, hearty, Easy Make-Ahead Baked Ziti recipe includes ziti pasta with not one but three kinds of cheese, sausage and hamburger meat, and chunks of tomato in a rich tomato sauce. It a comfort food nirvana! Make Ahead Baked Ziti also freezes well and is perfect to keep on hand in your freezer for nights when you just don’t feel like cooking or when you need a nice meal to welcome a new neighbor or to take to a sick friend.
Because this recipe makes twelve servings, when I made it, I divided it into thirds, and baked one casserole and froze the other two.
How to make Easy Make-Ahead Baked Ziti
This baked ziti recipe has a fairly long ingredient list, but it comes together quickly. The ingredients are olive oil, garlic, onion, ground beef, Italian sausage, tomato sauce, canned whole tomatoes, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, ziti, mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, and eggs.
To get started, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and saute for 3-4 minutes, or until they start to soften.
Add the ground beef and sausage and cook until done. Drain off the fat and season the meat with salt and pepper.
Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, and juice, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Stir, and simmer for 30-40 minutes. After simmering, break up the tomatoes with a fork. Let cool.
In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the water starts boiling, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt to the water. Bring to a full rolling boil and add the pasta. Cook the pasta, frequently stirring for about 8 minutes or until it reaches the al dente stage, such that it is still somewhat firm and not completely cooked through and soft.
Pour the pasta into a colander and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside to cool.
In a very large bowl, mix 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, the ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, eggs and about 1 tsp of salt and pepper.
Add the cooled pasta and toss to combine. Add about 2 cups of the tomato meat sauce and mix again.
This recipe makes 12 servings. If you are making just 1 casserole, you will have to use at least a 5-quart casserole or lasagna pan or one that is 11×15 inches. If you want to divide it up, you can use 8×8 or smaller pans. For this batch, I used 2 8×8 aluminum foil disposable pans which will hold least 3 servings each and 1 8×12 inch glass casserole dish which contains 6 servings.
For easy clean-up, spray your casserole dish lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Add half of the coated pasta to your casserole dish. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with half the remaining mozzarella. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta and the remaining sauce and mozzarella.
Bake uncovered for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until bubbling. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
*If you want to freeze your casserole, cover tightly and place in the freezer. To cook, let defrost in the refrigerator overnight and bake according to the directions above. If you cook it without defrosting, add about 30 minutes to the cooking time.
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***From the archives: This popular recipe originally posted April 11, 2016. Republished on March 14, 2018, with new photos but no changes to the original recipe.