- 12 ounces Ziti Pasta
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 0/5 cup, diced Onion
- 1 large Red Bell Pepper
- 2 cloves Garlic Cloves
- 1.5 teaspoons Sea Salt
- 0.25 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dried Basil
- 1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 0.5 pound Organic Ground Chicken
- 1.5 cups Crushed Tomatoes
- 4 ounces Spinach
- 6 ounces Mozzarella Cheese
- 6 ounces Ricotta Cheese
Baked ziti! Talk about comfort food, am I right?
I was first introduced to baked ziti when my mother-in-law Stella made it for me about 10 years ago.
Right before taking my first bite, my now husband then boyfriend told me it was one of his favorite dishes ever.
He was basically hinting towards the fact that he also wanted me to learn how to make his mom’s baked ziti.
Well it only took about 9 years for me to give it a try at home. I’ve been making a lot of lasagna in the meantime, so my husband is certainly getting well fed (haha).
This recipe is very much based on my mother-in-law’s recipe but of course I made a couple of foodbyjonister tweaks!
Move the ground chicken from the refrigerator to your kitchen counter to allow it to come up to room temperature a bit.
Peel and dice your onion.
Wash and dice the red bell pepper.
Peel and grate or mince the garlic cloves.
Wash and dry your spinach leaves.
Get your seasonings out: salt, black pepper, dried oregano and dried basil.
Grate your mozzarella cheese.
Also bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
And lastly, preheat your oven to 350°F.
Make The Meat Sauce
Heat up a large skillet on your stove top on high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Once the oil is hot, lower the heat to medium and add the diced onion. Stir and sauté for a couple of minutes.
Next, add the diced bell pepper. Stir and sauté for another couple of minutes.
Season with 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and stir.
Add the minced garlic and sauté for only one minute.
Now season with dried basil and dried oregano and stir.
Add the ground chicken and using your wooden spoon or spatula, break up the meat while it's browning.
Smaller chunks of ground chicken work better in the recipe. Cook for 3-4 minutes.
Add the crushed tomatoes, stir and cook for 10 minutes on medium-low heat.
Season once more with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.
Add the spinach, cover the skillet and allow the spinach to wilt for 4-5 minutes on low heat.
Grab a spoon and give the sauce a taste. Adjust seasoning if needed.
Turn off the heat and keep the skillet covered.
Cook The Ziti Pasta
Add the ziti to the boiling water and cook for 7 minutes or until al-dente.
Stir the ziti occasionally while it's boiling to make sure none of the pasta sticks together.
After your timer goes off drain the pasta (but do not rinse) and set aside.
Fill The Baking Dish
Grab your baking dish - a shallow baking dish works the best!
Drizzle the bottom with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil then add half of the cooked ziti and spread it out to an even-ish layer.
Next, add about half of the shredded mozzarella and half of the ricotta cheese.
Now add the meat sauce and spread out evenly.
Add the remaining cooked pasta and top with the remaining ricotta and grated mozzarella cheese.