I have not been this excited about a recipe since…well…I guess my last recipe, but there’s something about comforting Italian classics made gluten free that really riles a girl up. Gluten Free Baked Ziti calls for just five ingredients yet contains all the cheesy, savory goodness of the original. You know, Sbarro’s!
I kid, I kid – though I used to get DOWN with Sbarro’s Baked Ziti from the mall food court back in my Jr. High days. After walking to the mall after school (#cool) my girlfriends and I would hit up the Disney store, Claire’s, and Limited Too before feasting on pizza slices as big as our heads and piles of Baked Ziti that only a 13 year old’s metabolism was built to handle from the food court staple, Sbarro. Followed by Double Doozies from Great American Cookies for dessert because of course. And then we’d go home for dinner. Dang, those were the days!
Anyway, my Gluten Free Baked Ziti hits the spot in the way that only cheese, really good marinara sauce, pasta, and well, more cheese and marinara sauce can. It is SO darn good, and reheats really well, too. Hearty, cozy, unfussy, and tastes just like the Baked Ziti of my mall food court days. I know you will love this easy dish!
How to Make Gluten Free Baked Ziti
Start by boiling 12oz gluten free ziti-type noodles in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente then drain. Don’t overcook as the noodles will continue to soften in the oven.
I say “ziti-type” noodles because I haven’t found gluten free ziti in stores. Full Circle Organic has a rigatoni pasta which has the long, classic ziti shape plus some very small ridges, a la traditional rigatoni. This particular brand of gluten free pasta holds up very well to being boiled then baked – I definitely recommend!
- If you can’t find the above pasta, I recommend using a different brand of corn/rice blend gluten free pasta, versus a brown rice, lentil, or bean-based pasta. Corn/rice blend gluten free pastas typically hold up well to being boiled then baked, while brown rice pastas absorb sauces, which could lead to a dry dish. Most lentil and bean-based pastas fall apart very easily (and taste awful, imho) too. Really any shaped pasta will do, too – penne would be great. I like Barilla and HyVee’s store brand corn/rice blend gluten free pastas.
- If you do not need to eat gluten free, please be aware that most “regular” pasta is sold in 16oz packages, while most gluten free pastas are sold in 12oz packages (except for the brand above, which is randomly sold as a 14oz package.) This recipe calls for 12oz pasta so, if you want to follow this recipe but don’t need to eat gluten free, either remove 4oz pasta from a regular package of ziti OR increase the amount of marinara sauce and cheeses to ensure your dish doesn’t turn out dry.
While the pasta is cooking, add 2-1/2 cups marinara sauce, 1 heaping cup ricotta cheese, and 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese to a large bowl then stir to combine.
I used BelGioioso’s Whole Milk Ricotta which is gluten free and HEAVENLY. I had to cut Cam off, who wanted spoonful after spoonful, while making this dish!
I also used Gino’s Spaghetti Sauce. One of my biggest tips for making this dish taste like the “real thing” is to use the highest quality marinara or spaghetti sauce you can find – homemade would be amazing! We are Gino’s mega fans and it’s all I’d ever dream of using for my Baked Ziti. Gino’s marinara sauce is the best you’ll ever have, but is spicy, so I use their mild spaghetti sauce when making dishes that the kids will eat too.
Last steps are to add the drained pasta into the sauce then stir to combine. Pour into a medium-sized baking dish – I used a 7×11.5″ dish – then sprinkle on 1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (which is 3/4 of a bag of shredded mozzarella – just eyeball it). Cover with foil then bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce is slightly bubbling, then uncover and bake for another 5-7 minutes, or until the cheese has fully melted.
One of the things I adored about Sbarro’s Baked Ziti was that it was smothered in their house red sauce, which is what I recommend doing with this homemade version also. That said, scoop the Gluten Free Baked Ziti onto plates then douse with warm marinara sauce and dig in. Oh man, it is so special. I hope you love this comforting, cozy, classic gone gluten free! Enjoy!
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Gluten Free Baked Ziti
Gluten Free Baked Ziti calls for just 5 ingredients. This easy, cheesy, satisfying gluten free dinner recipe will be a hit with kids and adults alike!
- 12oz gluten free ziti or penne pasta (see notes)
- 4 cups high quality marinara or spaghetti sauce, divided
- 1 heaping cup ricotta cheese
- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil then add a couple Tablespoons salt (optional) and pasta, then cook until pasta is al dente (do not overcook as the pasta will continue to cook in the oven.) Drain.
- Meanwhile, add 2-1/2 cups marinara sauce, ricotta and parmesan cheeses to a large bowl then stir to combine. Add drained pasta then mix to combine. Pour mixture into a medium-sized baking dish (I used an 11x7.5”) then top with mozzarella cheese, cover with foil, and bake for 15-20 minutes or until sauce is bubbly. Uncover then bake for an additional 5-7 minutes to fully melt cheese (cheese does not need to brown - just melt.) Warm remaining marinara sauce then scoop Baked Ziti onto plates, spoon warm marinara sauce over top, and serve.
- I use Full Circle Organic Penne pasta, which has a ziti-like shape. I recommend using a corn/rice blend gluten free pasta for this dish, instead of a bean, lentil, or brown rice-based pasta.
- If you DO NOT eat gluten free: most non-gluten free pasta shapes are sold in 16oz packages vs the 12oz packages most gluten free pastas are sold in. To follow this recipe using regular pasta either remove 4oz pasta from your 16oz package before cooking, OR increase the amount of marinara sauce and both cheeses in the sauce to avoid a dry dish. This dish will not be GF if using regular pasta.
- Use the highest quality marinara or spaghetti sauce you can find in this dish - it REALLY makes a difference in making it taste like the “real thing”! I use Gino’s Spaghetti Sauce (their marinara sauce is also great but is too spicy for my kids.)
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.