Easy skillet baked ziti takes some of the extra pots and pans out of baked ziti by cooking the meat and sauce in a cast iron skillet. Adding the sauce ziti and cheese directly to the skillet cancels out the need for an extra baking dish, making this dish feel effortless. This comforting pasta casserole is the perfect pasta recipe to serve to company or gift to a friend in need of a little extra love.
For my sixth installment of my Grief Meals series, I’m making a basic skillet baked ziti. I feel like I’d be overlooking something huge if I did this series of Grief Meals without making some kind of baked ziti. It seems like anytime someone is in need, there will always be a baked ziti. Or twelve.
My friend that fed my family for weeks made us multiple baked zitis. She brought over baked ziti after I got home from the hospital and was going back and forth to the NICU. My lovely friend made another after my son got released from the NICU and we were adjusting to life with a new family member. And she also made one for my other son’s memorial service. There was a lot of baked ziti.
It was kind of strange to not be the one making them. Baked ziti is almost always on the table anytime we have a holiday or gathering. I will often make this vegetarian three cheese skillet ziti if I know my sister is going to be involved in a gathering since she doesn’t eat meat, but when she’s not, I go traditional with ground beef.
For me, this skillet baked ziti is the ultimate comfort food. There’s something so satisfying about a big bowl of hearty, cheesy pasta. It’s like a big hug in a bowl. No wonder why it’s such a popular dish to serve to someone going through a rough time.
Tips for Making Skillet Baked Ziti
- Use the largest cast iron skillet you have available. I used a 12″ skillet. If you don’t have a large enough skillet, just transfer all the individual components into a baking dish.
- Use lean ground beef. I used 90/10. If using beef that isn’t lean, drain the excess fat off the pan before adding the tomato puree.
- Season all layers of the baked ziti individually. Because you add seasoning to each layer, use less salt than you think you need to avoid over salting the dish.
- Most importantly, don’t be intimidated by the ingredients list or the lengthy instructions. No part of this skillet ziti
Looking for other Grief Meals? Try these:
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Beef and Quinoa Taco Skillet
- Lemon Pesto Chicken Orzo Skillet
- Roasted Southwestern Steak and Baby Potatoes
- Parmesan Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
Looking for other hearty pasta recipes? Try these:
This comforting skillet baked ziti is the perfect pasta recipe to serve to company or gift to a friend in need of a little extra love.
For the meat sauce
- 1 pound of lean ground beef
- 6 cloves of garlic, pressed
- pinch of salt
- pepper to taste
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 29 ounces of tomato puree
- 1/2 tsp basil
- 1/2 cup of pasta water
For the cheese filling
- 15 ounces part skim ricotta cheese
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste
To assemble the ziti
- 2 cups Italian or mozzarella cheese divided
- 12 ounces of penne, ziti, or rigatoni
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package and set aside.
- While preparing the pasta, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef to the hot skillet. Season with pressed garlic, a pinch of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook until brown all the way through, about 10 minutes. Pour in the tomato puree. Bring to a slow simmer and sprinkle in the basil. Continue to simmer while you assemble the cheese.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, tablespoon of olive oil, Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Stir the pasta water into the sauce. Spoon the cooked pasta into the meat sauce and stir until mixed. Stir in half of the shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese blend until evenly distributed. Spoon the ricotta mixture into the noodles, distributing spoonfuls of the ricotta throughout the skillet without over mixing. Top the skillet contents with the remaining shredded cheese. Loosely cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 15 minutes or refrigerate to bake later. If baking later, bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until the contents of the skillet are warmed through and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Serving Size: 6 servings
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