Have Ziti, Will Travel

Baked ziti falls into the category of comfort food for many Italian families. The hot saucy pasta with melted cheeses promotes deep-felt contentment and the smell fills the kitchen making you feel at home even if you're not. It is a dish that is easy and delicious to make (and take). It can easily be made from scratch or can be assembled from leftover sauce and pasta for a completely different meal. It can be eaten immediately or made ahead and frozen. It makes a wonderful house warming gift, new baby meal delivery, care package for a college student to take back to school, or even pot luck fare. Simply put, this dish is infinitely versatile!

This vegetarian version makes use of all the fresh spring vegetables available markets this time of year. Roasting the vegetables gives the pasta a rich, smoky flavor that is a good compliment to the Pomodoro sauce.

  • 1 pound ziti or penne pasta, cooked
  • 3 cups Pomodoro sauce
  • 2-3 cups roasted vegetables of your choice
  • ½ cup mushrooms, sautéed (optional)
  • 2 cups mozzarella (or a mixture of Italian cheeses)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 9” X 13” baking dish (disposable works best for travel!)

Place uncooked ziti in a large pot of salted boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Do not overcook or pasta will be soggy and break apart when tossed. Drain the pasta without delay in a large colander. Do not rinse the pasta before combining with about 2 cups of the sauce in a large mixing bowl. Add roasted vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, squash, carrots, peas, and/or green beans) and toss gently to cover pasta and vegetable completely with pomodoro sauce. Cover the bowl and set let stand for at least 5 minutes.

If freezing over serving later in the day, allow to cool completely. Transfer pasta to the baking dish and blanket the top of the pasta with cheese(s) and sprinkle with chopped parsley and cover with aluminum foil. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to reheat.

You can either re-heat from the ziti frozen or thawed state. From frozen will take much longer, so we recommend taking the dish out of the freezer at least 24 hours in advance and let it defrost in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If you are reheating in an aluminum pan, be sure to place a cookie sheet underneath the pan. Leaving foil on the dish, cook for about 30-40 minutes if completely thawed removing the foil. Cook for 45-50 minutes if partially thawed or allow to bake for an hour (or more) if still frozen. It is ready when the sauce is bubbling to the surface. If the cheese is not browned and melted enough, remove the aluminum foil and let it cook for a little longer or put it under the broiler for a few minutes. Serve with crusty bread and a fresh Caesar salad for an Italian dinner worthy of an Emperor!