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« Huevos Rancheros! | Main | One Perfect Bite »

One-Pan Baked Ziti

It’s been over two months since my last pasta post and I can only imagine how confused and disoriented you all must be.  Or maybe I’m just projecting.  But for those of you who have been just a bit relieved that I’ve taken this break from indulging my pasta fixation (at least on the blog), you're probably running screaming from the room right about now.  But be sure and hurry back… you’re really not going to want to miss this one. 

Because, while this is mostly about a totally scrumptious baked pasta dish, it’s also about simplicity, and having dinner on the table in minutes, and not ruining said dinner by having to face piles of dishes afterwards. 

No boiling pasta and making sauce and baking it off in a baking dish.  I count three pans right there.  No, this one all comes together in just one pan. And if you didn't want to wash dishes, you could just take your forks right to the pan.  And if you didn't want to wash forks, well, no, just wash some forks for crying out loud.

The recipe comes to us from the good folks at Cook’s Illustrated and uncharacteristically, I didn’t change one thing.  Like, for instance, whenever a recipe calls for cream, I usually sub out milk or yogurt, but this time I had some cream in the fridge (don’t ask) and just went with it.  I highly recommend you splurge a bit and use the cream.  It gives this pasta some body and amazing flavor and besides, it’s just ½ cup.  For the whole pan.  Go for it.   

This is what I told myself as I deliberated over whether to add the cream or sub it out for a less caloric dairy product.  I never cook with cream (except for desserts where it’s absolutely necessary and no substitutions will do), and it’s probably not such a good thing that I have allowed myself to taste its lusciousness in this recipe.  It’s a slippery slope, people, but I’m promising myself that this will not get out of hand.  I will only make a cream exception for this one recipe.  Of course, I will then have to decide what to do with the rest of the carton.  Like I said, a slippery slope.  Here’s the recipe…

One-Pan Baked Ziti

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe courtesy of Cook's Illustrated

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
3 cups water
12 ounces ziti (3 3/4 cups)
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup minced fresh basil leaves
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Making the Minutes Count: Measure the water and the pasta before you begin cooking. Prep the Parmesan and basil while the pasta cooks.

1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 475 degrees. 

2.  Combine oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in 12-inch, oven-safe nonstick skillet and sauté over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add crushed tomatoes, water, ziti, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cover and cook, stirring often and adjusting heat as needed to maintain vigorous simmer, until ziti is almost tender, 15 to 18 minutes.

3. Stir in cream, Parmesan, and basil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over ziti.  Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cheese has melted and browned, about 10 minutes. Serve.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Reader Comments (25)

I may just love pasta as much as you do, so I'm very excited about this recipe. Like you, I like to use lowfat milk or yogurt instead of cream in recipes, but you've maybe persuaded me to try using cream in this. I'll give that some thought, but I'm definitely going to make this. It looks incredible.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJanelle R.

This looks SO GOOD!! My mouth is watering! I'll be making this very soon!

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterErica Whitney

My family loves baked pastas and this one looks amazing. Do you think I could substitute dried basil for the fresh?

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGina K.

I'm so not running from the room screaming! LOL!! This just looks wonderful. I know my kids will love it.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDenise Franklin

I just discovered your blog through pinterest and can't wait to try some of your recipes. This one looks so perfect for my life (10 month old son) and I don't have a lot of time for cooking. And I hate doing dishes! LOL!!

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMacy

I'm a card carrying pasta freak so keep them coming! This one looks very special. So excited to try it!

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHaley M.

OMG, this looks so great! Your photos have me drooling on my keyboard.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKim Hawthorne

Now if I can just find a disposable skillet.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBecky Albright

Beautiful recipe, beautiful photos, Patrice. Yes, I must make this!

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWendy Yokum

I have no problem putting 1/2 cup of cream in this pasta. It looks like it could feed 12 people!

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Ericksen

If I wanted to substitute yogurt for the cream, should I use the same amount (1/2 cup)?

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia

I love this! I have such a weakness for anything baked pasta and cheese. I've got to check the fridge and see if I have everything to make this.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHeather M.

You can certainly substitute dried basil for the fresh basil in this, Gina. But if you do, I would add it (1 teaspoon) with the garlic and crushed red pepper at the beginning of the recipe.

February 22, 2014 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Let me know if you find one, Becky! :)

February 23, 2014 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Yes, I would use 1/2 cup of yogurt, but thin it down just a smidgen with milk.

February 23, 2014 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

i am a pastaholic and this recipe is like throwing a six pack to a thirsty man.gotta try it tonight.

February 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterleo g king

So good to hear from a fellow pastaholic, Leo! Enjoy!

February 23, 2014 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

First, if you were to not use cream (it's not just the calories, it's the sat fat for those of us who are watching cholesterol) what/how much would you use instead?

Second, it's only one pan if you have a pan that can go from stovetop to oven! But that's OK -- I can use one pan to cook and another to bake! I do this with an incredible baked risotto dish (from Martha Stuart -- look for it, it's delish and incredibly easy) and it works just fine.


February 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLynn S.

It depends on what you would like to use instead of the cream, Lynn. If you'd like to use yogurt, then I would use 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt (less acidity) and thin it down just a bit with some milk until it's just a little thicker than cream. You could also use a lowfat sour cream and do the same thing. One thing I often use when substituting for cream is to use the same amount of goat cheese. It lends a nice creaminess to the dish. Hope that helps.

February 23, 2014 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

I must say, so many baked pasta recipes online come out looking dehydrated in photographs. This is the first baked ziti recipe I've seen in awhile that looks amazingly saucy, cheesy, and just plain wonderful. That first picture is gorgeous. Thank you for sharing!

February 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSimone Zoe

You're so welcome, Simone. And thank you for those kind words. It would have been hard to photograph this pasta any other way... it really is that saucy, cheesy and delicious!

February 24, 2014 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

I'm a little disappointed that you are encouraging your readers to add unhealthy fat and cholesterol to a dish that is already so full of cheese and saturated fats. I have come to rely on your recipes to be healthy and how you encourage healthy substitutions for ingredients such as cream and butter. I'm glad you have offered the option to use yogurt instead of the cream. I hope that you will be more health-conscious in your future recipes.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPamela Paulson

Well, you're right, Pamela, in that I usually offer healthy substitutions for some ingredients. I would encourage everyone to do this for any recipe they feel they might need to alter to fit their particular cooking preferences and I'm glad to hear that this is important to you.

February 24, 2014 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Thank you for another great recipe. I made this right away and have made it several times since. It is a wonderful recipe. It didn't dry out and was oh so creamy! One time I wanted to add meat, so I browned it (grass-fed beef) in another pan with Italian seasoning, drained what little fat there was and added the beef to the pasta before it went in the oven. Along with a salad, it was a complete meal for my guys. Everyone loves it. It is now printed out and added to my forever friends! Thanks!

March 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

Well, you're welcome, Allison! I'm so glad you like it! II was thinking about adding some Italian sausage next time. I'm glad it came out so well. Thanks so much for letting us know!

March 21, 2014 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

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