A go-to, fail-proof recipe is definitely five cheese ziti al forno. While there’s a bevy of Italian dishes perfect for feeding big groups of people, or hungry families on a Sunday night, a baked dish like this one will be easy on your budget, your tummy and your happiness. When you’re entertaining, no one wants to be stuck in the kitchen the entire time. That’s a recipe for stress in the eyes of a hostess. So, having a dish that’s simple, easy and filling allows you to prepare a bit before hand to greet your guests at the door all the while, the food is cooking up in the oven. For your next dinner party, or hungry teenagers try out this recipe and let us know what you think!
This recipe has been famously repurposed based on one of your all time favorite from none other than Olive Garden. You’ll have to let us know if it matches up to standard! Even though you’ll miss out on unlimited breadsticks, you’ll still have a restaurant worthy meal on your hands. Also, don’t be afraid to tweak the recipe based on your taste buds and dietary needs, cooking is all about creativity. Turn on your favorite music, pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy!
- SAUCE (and it’s all about the SAUCE!)
- 4 cups tomato sauce
- 2 cups alfredo sauce
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 3 tablespoons Fontina cheese, shredded
- 1 teaspoon garlic pepper seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
For the Ziti Topping
- 3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons romano cheese, grated
- 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, chopped
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
- 1 lb dry ziti pasta
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Time to Prep
Total Time: 1 hrs 10 mins
Prep Time:30 mins (before your guests, or family arrives)
Cook Time: 40 mins (for when you’re busy catching up and entertaining! Perfect.)
PREPARE THE ZITI SAUCE:.
Combining all ingredients for the Ziti Sauce in a large bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
PREPARE THE ZITI TOPPING:.
In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the first four ingredients for the Ziti Topping.
Add the garlic, oil, and parsley and mix until thoroughly blended. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
When Ready to Prepare the Entire Dish
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking dish or large casserole with non-stick spray.
- Prepare the pasta according to package directions.
- Pour 1/2 cup of prepared ziti sauce into the prepared dish, and spread it evenly over the bottom using a spoon.
- When pasta has finished cooking, drain the water and pour the hot pasta into the bowl of remaining sauce. Mix thoroughly; pour into the baking dish.
- Spread 1 cup of shredded mozzarella over the pasta and sauce mixture.
- Top the mozzarella with the prepared Ziti Topping, spreading evenly.
- Place pan on center oven rack and bake until top is golden brown and cheese is bubbling, about 30 to 40 minutes.
- Remove and serve immediately.
Once you’ve got the recipe down, you can try out different additions to amp up the flavor. If you have a family of meat lovers, try sprinkling in ground beef, or ground spicy Italian sausage. You can also get sassy with your spices. There’s no such thing as too much garlic, in my humble opinion. Or, if you run out of fresh parsley, you can also use Italian Seasoning or a combination of dry seasonings in your pantry. When in doubt, fresh is better but it isn’t a deal breaker! You can also use alternative cheeses smoked provolone and/or goat cheese. If you want to save some calories or some dollars, substitutions for the cheese will cut down the numbers on both! For an extra crispy topping try using Panko breadcrumbs.
When the ziti is all the way cooked and cooled, immediately cut into squares and store in a freezer safe container, or ziplock. This way they’re easy to take on the go for lunches/dinner and they’re in individual servings. This will also help if you’re avoiding going for seconds!
If you liked this dish….You should try:
Soups and stews are a nostalgic favorite for anyone. They’re a comfort food after a long day, a warm bowl and a fully belly makes for a nice ending to your evening. For an alternative, healthier option than that above, with just as much flavor and deliciousness try out the following recipe:
Olive Garden Pasta E Fagioli Soup in a Crock Pot
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 (16 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained
- 1 (16 ounce) can white kidney beans, drained
- 3 (10 ounce) cans beef stock
- 3 teaspoons oregano
- 2 teaspoons pepper
- 5 teaspoons parsley
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)
- 1 (20 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
- 8 ounces pasta
Prep Time: 15minutes (hallelujah!)
Cook Time: 7hours (while you’re out and about, who needs to sit and slave over a stove! Thanks Crockpots!)
- Brown beef in a skillet.
- Drain fat from beef and add to crock pot with everything except pasta.
- Cook on low 7-8 hours or high 4-5 hours.
- During last 30 min on high or 1 hour on low, add pasta.
- Try out these substitutions for a little variety!
- Used Beef bouillon instead of stock
- Instead of crock pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour.
- Use ground turkey
- Use spicy tomato sauce for an extra kick! Or alternative to hot sauce
- Cut the meat in half
- Try whole baby carrots instead of diced
- Substitute beef stock for chicken stock
- Try Prego for the pasta sauce- this is the least “stew like” sauce.
If you love going out to eat, but you don’t have the time or the money- trying out copycat recipes like this one can bring you restaurant quality food, all while in the comfort of your own home. Crockpots and pasta dishes make cooking fun, easy and budget friendly. They’re also great if you’re serving a large group of people.