Baked Ziti from Scratch

baked ziti closeup 1

Get this: my darling husband does not like lasagna. Isn’t that just crazy??? He isn’t a fan of clumps of ricotta cheese, but if it is mixed into pasta he is happy. Conversely, my son’s absolute favorite food is lasagna–the more cheese the better. What is a mom to do? I make baked ziti from scratch instead. It is composed of the exact same ingredients, but with a different shape of pasta. I like to add Italian pork sausage to our sauce occasionally, but it is perfect for meatless dinners as well. It is still layered, still cheesy, and you can either mix the ricotta into the pasta like I do, or spoon it in like the rest of the world. Did I mention that I use four, sometimes five types of cheese in this dish? All in all though–everyone is happy with this meal. And I get yet another opportunity to drink and review an amazing red wine.

Someday I will post my recipe for the BEST garlic bread on the planet for you too.

Dry Red Blend with Baked Ziti from Scratch

baked ziti with boxwood reserve

You can go in lot of directions pairing wine with this Italian-American meal: chianti, Sangiovese, or another dry Italian red would be wonderful. Here, I chose a dry red blend. This bottle is a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot from my home state of Virginia. Boxwood Winery is located in the Middleburg AVA in Northern Virginia. This wine has garnered some prestigious awards (93 points by James Suckling, 2019 VA Governor’s Cup Gold) and and is one of my favorites. I did decant this as it is a bit young still.

Pro Tip: Decant heavy red wines before you start preparing meals. This will give the wine time to open up and mellow out a bit. Wine needs to breathe! Decanters are well worth the money. I got this one from Aldi for less than $15.

Boxwood reserve

Boxwood Estate 2015 10th Anniversary Vintage Reserve

  • Boxwood Estate 2015 10th Anniversary Vintage Reserve
  • 🗺 From Middleburg AVA, Middleburg, Virginia
  • 🥇 Awarded 93 points by James Suckling, 2019 VA Governor’s Cup Gold
  • 🍇 Blend of 48% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot with an 13.5% ABV
  • 👁 Dark Ruby
  • 👃🏼 Intense aromas and flavors of: black cherry, black currant, pepper, baking spices, tobacco, oak, toast
  • 👅 Dry, Bold and full bodied, Medium + tannins, Medium + acidity, Long finish of minerality
  • 💰 $45
boxwood reserve close up

Baked Ziti

Italian American Classic
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: italian sausage, marinara, mozzarella, parmesan, pasta, pork, pork sausage, provolone, ricotta, tomato, tomato sauce
Servings: 6


tomato sauce

  • 1 pound Italian sausage casings removed, optional
  • 2 tbsp olive oil optional
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4+ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 6 ounces tomato paste 1 small can
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes 1 large can
  • 14 ounces diced tomatoes 1 medium can
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasonings


  • 1 pound ziti
  • 2 cups ricotta medium container
  • 12 slices provolone
  • 1/2 cup parmesan grated, or asiago, or a combination
  • 8 ounces mozzarella fresh, mini balls/pearls or shredded
  • garnish basil fresh, chopped or torn, optional

wine suggestions: dry red blend, bordeaux, chianti, sangiovese, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or petit verdot


    tomato sauce

    • In a large skillet or sauce pan, brown and crumble sausage and onions over medium heat until meat has lost all pink. (If not including meat, sauté onions in olive oil for 5 minutes or until soft.) Add garlic, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Melt in can of tomato paste. Stir in crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes. Sprinkle in italian seasonings. Reduce to low and simmer 30 minutes, stirring often.


    • Preheat oven to 375F. Boil pasta as per package instructions, but reduce time to 7 minutes instead of 10. Drain and return pasta to pot. You want a slightly undercooked pasta since it will continue to cook in the oven. Stir in half of pasta sauce and container of ricotta (unless you want dollops of ricotta–then save it for the next step)
    • Pour half of sauced pasta into the bottom of a greased 9×13 casserole. Sprinkle half of mozzarella balls (and optional ricotta dollops) over pasta along with a sprinkling of 2 tablsespoons of parmesan. Spoon over half of the remaining sauce and add layer of 6 slices of provolone. Repeat all layers ending with remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan over top of provolone.
    • Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Sometimes I will broil for an additional 2-3 minutes to brown top layer of cheese. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Garnish with fresh chopped or torn basil if desired.
    baked ziti from scratch
    baked ziti from scratch
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