Grab a fork and dig into this Baked Ziti with Meatballs, a veggie-packed, cheese lover’s heaven on a plate! The meatballs and garlic-basil marinara sauce amp up the flavors and make this a recipe you’ll want every week!
Today’s post is sponsored by Mezzetta, but my love for their marinara products is all my own! Thanks for supporting brands that make my blogger dream a reality!
I think Pasta Tuesdays are in order.
Just hear me out! I know the case for Tacos, and I’m behind it all the way, but after a Meatless Monday, you’re definitely gonna need the extra carbs and ground beef in this baked ziti…or any other pasta you may want to make with Mezzetta marinara. So maybe every other week?
I love love love pasta with all my heart, and if I could eat it every day, I probably would! Buuuuttttt that’s not a very smart decision for anyone’s diet, so we’ve got to make sure the pasta days are as delish as possible, right?
Enter Baked Ziti with Meatballs!
Ziti has always been one of my fave pasta dishes. What’s not to love about noodles, sauce, and three or four different cheeses?!
The only thing that could make it all that much better? Some meatballs, a bunch of sautéed veggies, basil. And more cheese, of course. The more the better. Like thick, perfect mozzarella slices on top
You all know how I feel about cheese. If love had a food form, that would be it for me.
So cheese = check.
How about red wine meatballs!? Deglaze your pan with the dregs of your bottle of Merlot or Cab and you will NOT regret it!
Because wine? It’s practically required in Italian cooking. You really can’t go wrong.
As for veggies, they aren’t traditionally found in ziti, but since I was adding beef, I decided to just take it a step further and sauté some fresh onions, peppers, mushrooms and spinach and toss them with the sauce.
Oh, that sauce, though.
Mezzetta has truly become a brand that I totally love, and their Whole Garlic and Sweet Basil Marinara is heartthrob-worthy.
I mean, the whole garlic cloves inside are heavenly for folks like me who can’t get enough of it.
I enjoy making homemade pasta sauce. I do. But if I’m being honest, more often than not, the laziness (or lack of time) takes over – so I always make sure I have a jar in the pantry ready to go! Simple, rich, and real, it tastes just as good as a batch you’ve slaved over in the kitchen…except it can be hard to find the fresh San Marzano tomatoes you find in Mezzetta’s marinara unless you actually LIVE in Italy!
San Marzano tomatoes are considered the best in the world, making this quite possibly the best ziti in the world. Just sayin’.
Mr. Crumby and I were supposed to tour around some of Italy last year but never got to. One of these days, though…I’m going to dedicate a full two weeks to getting lost in that beautiful country, sampling their finest wines, and picking allllllll the tomatoes.
Baked Ziti with Meatballs
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 green pepper chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup portabello mushrooms
- 4 cups spinach
- 15 meatballs homemade or store-bought
- ¼ cup dry red wine
- 48 ounces marinara sauce 2 jars
- 16 ounces ziti noodles cooked al dente
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1 cup Mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 8 ounces Mozzarella ball sliced
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese grated or shredded
- 3 tablespoons fresh basil chiffonade
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 12x9 casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large skillet set over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onions and peppers and cook 3-5 minutes until onions are translucent. Add mushrooms and cook an additional 2-3 minutes; add garlic and spinach. Cook 2-3 minutes until spinach wilts and garlic is fragrant. Remove to a large bowl.
- In another skillet or saucepan, add uncooked meatballs in a single layer set over medium heat. Cover and cook until no pink remains (8-20 minutes depending on whether fresh or frozen,) stirring as necessary so they don't burn. When they're almost cooked, deglaze the pan with the red wine, tossing the meatballs around to coat.
- Allow the wine to cook down, then add marinara sauce, allowing everything to heat up. Add the meatballs and sauce to the vegetable mix, then toss with the pasta.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta, Mozzarella, egg, and pepper until combined.
- To assemble, spread 1 cup marinara mixture on the bottom of prepared 12x9 casserole dish. Layer ½ of the pasta/sauce mixture on top, then place dollops of the cheese mixture on that, spreading carefully. Top with remaining pasta/sauce, spreading the meatballs around evenly.
- Lay Mozzarella slices on top, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Tent with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and gooey. You can also broil for 2-3 minutes if you'd like crispy browned cheese.
- Remove from oven and top with fresh basil before serving. Enjoy!