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Spoon lifting baked ziti out of a white baking dish.

Roasted Red Pepper Baked Ziti

  • Author: Jessie
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 mins
  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Italian-American
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Easy baked ziti with a homemade roasted red pepper sauce.


Ingredients

Scale

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 3 large red bell peppers, seeds removed and cut into quarters
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, cut into large pieces (halved or quartered - see recipe notes)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

FOR THE BAKED ZITI:

  • 1/2 pound ziti pasta
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh parsley or basil for garnish (optional)

Instructions

FOR THE SAUCE: 

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place bell peppers, onion, and garlic on a large sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat all ingredients in oil and salt. 
  3. Bake at 425 F for 20-30 minutes until peppers are lightly charred and onion has softened and lightly browned.
  4. Carefully transfer roasted veggies to a blender. Add stock and balsamic vinegar. Blend until smooth, then set aside until you're ready to assemble your ziti. Note: Be sure to remove the center cap piece on your blender's lid to allow steam to escape. Use a clean tea towel to cover the hole as you start and stop the blender to avoid spatters.

FOR THE BAKED ZITI:

  1. Cook ziti pasta in very salty water until it's a few minutes less than al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. 
  2. Add your roasted red pepper sauce to the ziti and toss to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. 
  3. Time to assemble! Spread half of the ziti over the bottom of a small casserole dish. Use a spoon to dot half of the ricotta on top of the pasta, spacing it evenly around the dish. Top with a little less than half of the shredded mozzarella. Repeat for a second layer with remaining ziti, then ricotta, then mozzarella.
  4. Bake ziti at 425 degrees F for 15-20 minutes until cheese has melted and lightly browned. Top with fresh parsley or basil (optional) and serve immediately.

Notes

For best results, cut the peppers and onions into large (3-4"), evenly-sized pieces before roasting. This helps everything cook evenly and prevent burning! Cutting your 1/2 onion in half again is usually sufficient - for an especially large onion, you may want to cut it once more. Don't worry about breaking every onion layer apart - just throw the onion onto the sheet pan as is and let it break apart naturally when you toss the veggies with the oil! If you notice your veggies (especially the onion) beginning to burn on the edges, use tongs to give everything a toss and redistribute some moisture.

What size baking dish should I use? We used a 10" round casserole dish in these photos, but this recipe also works with a rectangular 8"x10" baking dish.

Additions and substitutions. Use chicken stock in place of veggie stock. Use another short pasta (rigatoni, shells, penne, cavatappi) instead of ziti if you like. Add chopped kale, spinach, mushrooms, additional bell peppers, or caramelized onions. For extra protein, add cooked Italian sausage, beef, or chicken. Stir additions in with the sauce and pasta or use them as a separate layer while assembling the ziti. Use parmesan, fresh mozzarella, havarti, asiago, or gruyere in place of some or all of the cheese. Use goat cheese or cream cheese in place of the ricotta if you prefer. See the post above for more substitution ideas!

This is a fairly light sauce, and a lot of it will soak into the ziti as it cooks, so you'll be left with just a light layer. If you typically find baked ziti to be too dry (or if you just prefer more sauce!) you can double the sauce recipe here or stir in some extra veggie stock, heavy cream, or cauliflower cream to stretch the sauce for a creamier final product. For an ultra-creamy baked ziti, you can also whip up a béchamel sauce and layer it into the casserole along with the cheese.

To make this ziti ahead of time, roast the veggies and cook the pasta as directed. Add an extra 1/3 cup of veggie stock to the sauce (since the ziti will absorb the sauce as it sits). Let everything cool completely, then assemble as instructed, cover with an airtight lid or plastic wrap, and store in the fridge (3-4 days) or freezer (1-2 months) until you're ready for it. For additional make-ahead tips and baking instructions, be sure to read the post above!

This recipe was originally published in 2015. It was updated in 2020 with additional photos, notes, and a more streamlined recipe.

Keywords: pasta bake, winter, meal prep