Recipe Review

This Famous “Great-Grandma’s Baked Ziti” Is the Best Simple Comfort Food I Know

updated Sep 3, 2020
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Credit: Sheela Prakash

Here at Kitchn, we’ve tried out a handful of great recipes from the subreddit r/Old_Recipes: The Peanut Butter Bread, Grandma’s Lemon Bars, and infamous Murder Cookies were all total knockouts. But despite how tasty all of them have been, it’s Great-Grandma’s Famous Baked Ziti that really caught my eye.

Recently, a call-out was made in r/Old_Recipes for everyones favorite recipe posted on the subreddit. This baked ziti came up time and time again. I was instantly curious as to what the fuss was all about (and besides — any promise of saucy, cheesy pasta, and I’m hooked). Here’s what happened when I gave it a try.

Credit: Sheela Prakash

This Extra-Cheesy Baked Ziti Is Simple Comfort Food That Feeds Your Whole Crowd

The recipe for this baked ziti couldn’t be simpler. You bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook a box of dried ziti pasta. While it’s cooking, you brown a pound of ground beef in a large skillet with a little dried Italian seasoning. Then you combine the pasta and meat with ricotta cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, an egg, a jar of your favorite tomato sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. You spread this mixture out into a 9×13-inch baking dish or between two 8×8-inch baking dishes, pour another jar of tomato sauce over the top, sprinkle it with lots of shredded mozzarella cheese, and bake it for 20 to 25 minutes until bubbling and melty.

Credit: Sheela Prakash

The result is one of the cheesiest, most satisfying baked ziti dishes I’ve ever dug into. Stirring the ricotta into the pasta rather than dolloping it or layering it in the baking dish gave every bite just the amount of creamy richness, while pouring extra tomato sauce over the top of the pasta before sprinkling it with mozzarella prevented it from drying out and made the ziti perfectly sauced. I thought I’d find the addition of meat superfluous, but I actually really enjoyed having a little something extra tucked inside to make it even heartier.

Even better is just how many servings you’ll get from this dead-simple recipe. On Reddit, someone even cooked it for himself and his entire team of firefighters because of how easily it stretched! You’ll get a very generous eight to 10 servings out of this baked ziti, maybe even more. I wasn’t cooking for quite as many, so I divided the ziti among two 8×8-inch baking dishes and only baked one off. We still had leftovers with our smaller pan and I was able to freeze the other for another day.

Credit: Sheela Prakash

What to Know If You, Too, Make This Baked Ziti

This comforting recipe is easy and straightforward, but these tips will set you up for success.

  • Use the type of meat you’d like (or don’t use it at all). While the recipe calls for ground beef, I actually used ground turkey because it’s what my family prefers — it worked just as well. I also think bulk Italian sausage would be a great choice. You can also easily leave the meat out completely.
  • Don’t let the size of the jars of tomato sauce trip you up. Despite how simple this recipe is, I confess to having to re-read the ingredient list multiple times to understand what size jars of tomato sauce to use. The recipe calls for 2 (26-ounce) jars. Most average jars are 24 ounces, though, like the Rao’s that I used, and they worked perfectly.
  • Bake for the full 25 minutes, or more. I love when the cheese on top of baked ziti gets a little burnished in spots so I ended up baking my pan for 30 minutes rather than the 20 to 25 minutes called for. Start checking at 20 and continue to bake until the top is melted to your liking.
  • Divide among two baking dishes, if you’d like. As I mentioned, this recipe serves a crowd. I loved that I could use it as a meal prep opportunity, so I prepared two smaller 8×8-inch pans of ziti and only baked one. I wrapped the other tightly with aluminum foil and froze it. When I need an easy dinner, I’ll defrost it in the fridge overnight and bake it uncovered.