“Life is a combination of magic and pasta.” -Federico Fellini

Pasta is without a doubt the most commonly cooked item in a college kitchen.  It’s easy, quick, cheap and tasty.  That being said, it can also be extremely boring; and that is precisely why God created cheese.  Funny how you can throw sauce and cheese over pasta and it magically transforms into a completely different dish.  My cheese of choice?  Definitely mozzarella (as if you faithful readers didn’t know that already).  Baked ziti is the perfect solution to turn that plain old box of pasta into a classic favorite.  Now I know it’s not the healthiest of meals, and it does take a good chunk of time for the pasta to bake.  But in my defense, it’s super easy and you only need a few cheap ingredients… so hey, two out of four objectives isn’t too bad every now and then right?  Trust me, the taste makes up for it.

You’ll need:

  • One box of pasta:we used penne, which is really similar to ziti.
  • About half a jar of your favorite sauce, or if you have a lot of spare time on your hands (yeah, right), make your own sauce. For a great sauce, try any Newman’s Own.  We used Fire Roasted Tomato and Garlic.
  • Mozzarella cheese, about half a chunk, or half a bag if you go the shredded route
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper
  • Basil (fresh if you can make it to the store, but dried works great too)
  • Crushed red pepper, if you like it on the spicier side
  • A little bit of olive oil (not absolutely vital)


  1. – your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook the pasta regularly, until it’s al dente (a little bit firmer). 
  3. Heat your sauce on medium heat while you cook the pasta.  Don’t let it burn!  If it starts bubbling, take it off the heat.
  4. While the pasta’s cooking, slice or shred the mozzarella.  We used thin slices throughout the dish and then topped it with shredded mozzarella (see picture).
  5. Once the pasta is done, drain it and drizzle a little bit of olive oil, then stir it carefully.
  6. In a square dish (or larger if you’re cooking for more people), add the pasta, then a thick layer of sauce, and half of the mozzarella cheese slices (see picture).
  7. Repeat step 5 on top of the first layer, so you have two identical layers.  Then sprinkle the basil, garlic powder and black pepper over everything.
  8. Stir it all together, making sure you reach the corners and the mozzarella and spices are distributed evenly throughout the dish.
  9. Next top it all off with shredded mozzarella (using a grater or cutting up the mozzarella thinly), spreading the cheese evenly over the top.
  10. Stick it in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes, and it should be golden brown on top with the cheese melted.

And there you have it: a boring old pasta dish turned gourmet.  And it wasn’t even difficult! Buon appetito!

Here’s the visual guide:

cook and drain the pasta:

Prepare the sauce:

In a dish, layer the pasta sauce and mozzarella:

Repeat this step, add the spices, then stir everything together:

Top the whole dish with shredded mozzarella and stick it in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees:

When you take it out, the cheese should be melted and the top should be a crispy golden brown:

Looking for some other new pasta dishes to try? Check out these great recipes:

The Food Network’s Pasta collection: 100 mouth-watering recipes

Pasta recipe galore from CDKitchen.com

The National Pasta Association’s family favorites: Hello, the name says it all


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Rick Hancock said,

    You are on a roll. Please checkout this site called BlogHer
    They host a food blogger convention.

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