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Pasta al forno (oven-baked pasta) goes back to the Middle Ages when pasticci, lasagne, timballi, cannelloni, and other forms of baked pasta were served at the banquets hosted by the aristocracy. Today, it is a staple dish usually prepared on Sundays, holidays, and special occasions. Campania, Sicily, Abruzzo, Emilia Romagna are among the regions where pasta al forno is most popular, but you can find it in some form everywhere in Italy. In the United States, baked ziti is the quintessential pasta al forno, a casserole dish made with ziti pasta and tomato sauce. You can cook ziti for dinner, double the portions of pasta and sauce, and make baked ziti with the leftovers. That’s probably how this dish was born! You can eat it right away, store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.


1 pound of ziti pasta

4 cups of tomato sauce already cooked

1 pound of fresh mozzarella thinly sliced or shredded

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano

Salt, peperoncino and pepper

Tomato Sauce:

Extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 small onion, diced

1 pound of ground beef or of crumbled sausages, or diced eggplant if you are a vegetarian

4 cups of crushed tomatoes (or one 28-ounce can)

Fresh basil

Salt, peperoncino and pepper

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook the ground meat or sausage or vegetable with onion, garlic, salt and pepper for about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Add the basil and peperoncino. Taste and season to your taste.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Layer the cooked pasta with more sauce, mozzarella, half the Parmigiano cheese, on a baking dish. Cover the top of the pasta with the sliced mozzarella, sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano. Bake until lightly browned and hot, about 40 minutes. 


Cheddar Baked Ziti by