Recipe Review

This Soprano’s-Inspired Baked Ziti Recipe Is as Good as You’d Expect

updated Mar 17, 2021
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Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Pearl Jones

As someone who pays a little too much attention to what my favorite characters are eating on television, I love watching Binging with Babish. Created by filmmaker and home cook Andrew Rea, Binging with Babish is a web series in which Rea re-creates foods from television shows and movies. He’s made recipes inspired by everything from Pokémon to Pulp Fiction.

If you’ve ever watched The Sopranos, you probably know Sunday dinners are a ritual in the show, as they are for many Italian-American families. Tony Soprano’s wife, Carmela, is the matriarch who makes these dinners possible, and her food is the subject of much praise on the show (especially her lasagna and ziti). Rea re-created Carmela’s ziti recipe from The Soprano’s Family Cookbook (and incorporated a few tips of his own), and naturally it felt like a great contender for our baked ziti showdown. Here’s what happened when I gave it a try.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Pearl Jones

How to Make Binging with Babish’s Baked Ziti

You’ll start by making the tomato sauce. Add a generous amount of olive oil to a Dutch oven and bring it to a simmer. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent, then add several cloves of crushed garlic and cook for another minute. Remove the onion and garlic from the pot.

Next, use the Dutch oven to cook a mix of ground beef and Italian sausage in batches until it’s brown and crumbled. Drain the fat and add the onions and garlic back to the pot, then add a few tablespoons of tomato paste. Pour in crushed tomatoes and stir until combined, then fill one of the tomato cans with water and add it to the sauce. Toss in a Parmesan cheese rind and a whole stem of fresh basil. Cover the pot and bring the sauce to a simmer, then stir and partially cover. Reduce the heat to your stove’s lowest setting and allow the sauce to simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

When the sauce is finished, add some chopped basil and season with salt and pepper. Then, cook the ziti in boiling water for no longer than 5 minutes. Drain the pasta and add to a large bowl and toss with one or two cups of sauce. Spread half the pasta over the bottom of a baking pan, then spread ricotta cheese on top as evenly as possible. Add 1/2-inch chunks of mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese, then add the remaining ziti and spread it out evenly, making sure none of the cheese is exposed. Top everything off with a cup or two of the tomato sauce and more grated Parm.

Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until browned.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Pearl Jones

My Honest Review of Binging with Babish’s Baked Ziti

This was a great-tasting ziti. The thing I love most about it is that it’s more of a guide than a super-strict recipe: You get the impression that you’re supposed to make it taste how you like it best. For example, it doesn’t include specific amounts for the cheese, so you can add as much or as little as you’d like (but, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t take that liberty to add as much cheese as possible?). You can also toss and top your pasta with one cup of sauce or two, depending on your personal preference.

In addition to its flexibility, this recipe also has a standout tomato sauce. Nothing beats a slow-simmered sauce, and the lengthy simmering time in addition to the Parmesan rind and the abundance of basil (both of which are Rea’s additions to the recipe) make for a delicious, classic sauce. Be prepared that the recipe yields a lot, so you’ll be left with plenty to freeze even if you halve it like I did. I’m absolutely not complaining, though, because I can’t wait to bust it out on a lazy day and have a perfect tomato sauce waiting for me.

If You’re Making Binging with Babish’s Baked Ziti, a Few Tips

  1. Throw some mozzarella on top. While there’s no specification for how much mozzarella to add in the middle layer, I would have loved to see the directions call for some mozzarella on top, too, for an extra-cheesy top layer.
  2. Halve the tomato sauce. The recipe for tomato sauce makes an extremely large amount (Rea used it to make both a ziti and a lasagna). Even if you halve it, you’ll still have plenty to save for later.
  3. Try Binging with Babish’s baked rigatoni. At the end of the video, Rea explains how he would upgrade this ziti recipe and ultimately creates a new recipe for an extra-rich and creamy baked rigatoni, complete with bechamel sauce. I bet it’s equally as good as this ziti, if not better.

Rating: 9.5 / 10

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Pearl Jones

Have you ever made Binging with Babish’s Baked Ziti recipe? Let us know in the comments below!