baked ziti

I am officially out of recipes to share. I am now raiding my “Probably Not” folder – the rejects that either didn’t taste good or didn’t photograph well. I’ll spare you that ones that didn’t taste good.

It seems like I could just make something new and blog about it, right? The thing is though, nothing is working quite right for me lately. My delicious banana cream pies keep coming out with a layer of candy armor over the crust; the southwestern pasta salad recipe I patched together was too similar to and probably not quite as good as this one; I never got the ratios right in my cocktail last weekend (despite many attempts), and I forgot to take final photos of my pesto.

I’m just lucky that the photos of the baked ziti aren’t as ugly as I’d remembered. For this is not in the “didn’t taste good” category. With a mixture of pasta, tomatoes, cheese, and herbs, how could it not be delicious?

And although it’s hard to believe, you can make it halfway healthy without sacrificing much in the way of flavor or creaminess. In my experience, good whole wheat pasta (I like Bionaturae) is hardly different from refined versions. I’m perfectly happy with 1% cottage cheese and skim mozzarella. That just leaves the heavy cream to worry about, and with a slight increase in the cornstarch, you can get away with using milk instead.

And you can make it ahead, and it freezes well, and it reheats well, and heck, it isn’t half bad cold if you’re too impatient to bother heating it up. This is certainly worth pulling out of the reject file.

One year ago: Herbed Lima Bean Hummus
Two years ago: Country Crust Bread

Printer Friendly Recipe
Baked Ziti (from Cooks Illustrated)

Serves 8-10

Healthy tricks: Use 1% cottage cheese, whole wheat pasta, part-skim mozzarella, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch plus 1 cup milk instead of ¾ teaspoon cornstarch with 1 cup heavy cream.

1 pound whole milk or 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces parmesan cheese (about 1½ cups), grated
table salt
1 pound ziti pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 5 teaspoons)
1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
black pepper
¾ teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese, cut into ¼ inch pieces (about 1½ cups)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F. Whisk cottage cheese, eggs and 1 cup Parmesan together in medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain pasta and leave in colander.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil and garlic in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until garlic is fragrant but not brown. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in ½ cup basil and sugar, then season with salt and pepper.

3. Stir cornstarch into heavy cream in small bowl, transfer mixture to Dutch oven set over medium heat. Bring to simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce and ¾ cup mozzarella, then stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.

4. Transfer pasta mixture to 13- by 9-inch baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle with remaining ¾ cup mozzarella and remaining ½ cup Parmesan over top. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

5. Remove foil and continue to cook until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 3 tablespoons basil and serve.


  1. LOVE this recipe!! i never thought cottage cheese would work in this dish but it totally does and DH is none the wiser. 🙂

  2. Well I’m glad you made this one again b/c that first picture is awesome! And it looks delicious!

  3. Love your “healthy” suggestions…never thought of the cornstarch trick.
    Hope your dry spell of recipes-to-share ends promptly!

  4. I just discovered your blog and LOVE it! The photography tips are awesome and I want to try out every recipe listed on the blog:)

  5. I just posted a Baked Ziti recipe on my blog. It’s just a wonderful dish isn’t it? I used the Muir Glen tomatoes also, love that brand. You’ll have to take a look. This recipe of yours sounds WONderful. Love the addition of all that milk, cream and eggs.

  6. By the way, your photos are much better than mine. I just couldn’t seem to get a good shot.

  7. Mmm, the perfect comfort food! I liked how you lightened it up too with the cottage cheese. Oh, and I’m sure your “bad” photos are better than all of mine so please post the tasty recipes 🙂

  8. I’ve wanted to try this recipe for a long time – but the idea of cottage cheese in baked ziti scares me! I will add it to my menu soon though – I have a feeling I will like it. 🙂 I wish my photos looked as good as your worst ones…keep up the good work!

  9. bridget says:

    To give credit where it’s due, all of the healthier adaptations are described along with Cooks Illustrated’s original recipe, not something I came up with on my own.

  10. I hate it when I have a run of “meh” dishes and wind up suddenly with nothing to post. I think the ziti looks delicious and you certainly did it justice-makes me want to whip up a dish for the freezer!

  11. I love this recipe – so glad you shared it! Totally delicious and something I know my whole family would agree on loving.

  12. Um, you must be joking. That last picture is GOLD. Definitely doesn’t belong in this folder. (Must… make…) I had to laugh at “halfway healthy” though!!! 😉

  13. Haha I love that these are your “bad” photos! I wish! This recipes looks awesome – you can’t go wrong with CI. I make SO many of their recipes.

  14. I had a little difference of opinion with my wife in regards to this recipe. She felt that baked ziti should have ricotta cheese in it and I did not agree. We decide to go straight to the source and called my father. He said that he does not normally put ricotta in but when it is included the dish is designated Sorrentino. So there you have it; if you wish, add the optional ricotta and make Baked Ziti Sorrentino.

  15. I think this totally looks good! It’s key to have some satisfying and simple recipes like this in your back pocket for a less inspired cooking day. I love baked pasta dishes!