Baked ziti with meatballs features easy homemade meatballs AND marinara sauce for a delicious and hearty pasta bake. This recipe is total comfort food for a crowd and makes a wonderful holiday dinner.
328-oz canscrushed tomatoes
1 1/2tbspfresh basil,chopped
1 1/2tspdried oregano
1/2cupgrated Parmesan cheese
1/4tspground black pepper
1lbground beef(I used 80/20)
2tbspbutter,cut into 8 equal pieces
Fresh basil,for serving
For the sauce:
Add olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pot set over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until turning golden. Add minced garlic and saute for another 1-2 minutes.
Pour in crushed tomatoes and add basil and oregano. Give everything a good stir. Once bubbling, reduce heat to a simmer. Let sauce simmer while you prepare the meatballs and pasta, or until it has thickened and the flavors are to your liking. While simmering, stir the sauce up from the bottom periodically.
For the meatballs:
Preheat oven to 350°F and spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.
Add beef and mix everything together using your hands (or a wooden spoon) until just combined.
Portion out meatballs using a 1-1/2 tbsp capacity cookie scoop and space them evenly apart on the sheet. Bake for 25-27 minutes, or until nice and browned. Let cool on the pan.
For the pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ziti and cook to the al dente time according to the package directions (which was 8 minutes).
Once the pasta is cooked, drain and set aside.
Stir together the marinara sauce and the ricotta cheese in a large mixing bowl.
Add the cooked pasta to the bowl and stir to coat the ziti well.
Grease a large and fairly deep baking dish (the one pictured is 13" x 9" x 3") with cooking spray. Pour in the pasta and sauce and lightly press into an even layer.
Using cooking tongs, lift the baked meatballs off of the baking sheet, leaving excess fat behind. Nestle the meatballs evenly into the pasta in the baking dish.
Scatter shredded mozzarella evenly over top of the pasta. Place the small butter pats equally apart from one another on top of the mozzarella.
Bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbling and the mozzarella has become melty and golden brown. Garnish with chopped fresh basil for serving.
The small pats of butter melt over top of the cheese and add a luxurious touch to this special pasta dish. That said you can omit the butter if you're not feeling it.