The trick to make an already classic pasta dish like baked ziti even better is more cheese. So why not dust each slab on both sides with Parmesan cheese and pan fry for a beautiful golden crunchy crust. Sound good to you? Yep, me too! Here is my Cheese Crusted Baked Ziti!
After eating my Shrimp Saltimbocca the other evening I was in the mood for more Italian!
I use wheat pasta here because the body breaks it down slower and it isn’t such an insulin rush for Dave. Around our house we like to beef up your typical marinara sauce with meat, which basically turns it into a bolognese sauce. A little more heft to the meal, but feel free to just use your own or favorite store bought marinara sauce.
Instead of using a large 13×9″ baking dish I wanted to get some height on this baked ziti and used a meatloaf baking dish. It worked so well and I layered the ziti then cheese and then the remaining ziti. I poured some beaten eggs on top to help everything hold together and more cheese on top! In the oven for 35 minutes and it smelled amazing. But for all good things, patience. I let it cool down and then in the refrigerator overnight so I could slice it and then pan fry the next evening.
Now sure you could just dive in at this point, but if you love the crispy edges of a grilled cheese sandwich or the edges of a pizza crust where that cheese gets all crispy, then follow my lead and slice then dust each side with finely grated Parmesan cheese. A little pan fry and voila!
In reading the instructions this might sound complicated, but it isn’t. Brown sausage meat in your favorite marinara sauce, toss with cooked ziti pasta and layer in a pan with cheeses. Bake, chill and cut into slabs. A nice dusting of Parmesan cheese on each side and a quick pan fry to get the sides crispy and the cheese golden brown.
I like to plate this with some of the reserved bolognese sauce and top with more sauce and a dollop of fresh whipped ricotta cheese. Added crispy cheese goodness to an already wonderful Cheesy Baked Ziti dish.
Cheese Crusted Baked Ziti
- 8 oz ziti cooked
- 3 cups of marinara sauce separated
- 1 lb hot Italian sausage (or sub ground beef)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tbsp Italian herbs
- 1/2 lb fresh mozzarella grated
- 2 medium eggs beaten
- 4 slices of provolone cheese
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese finely grated, separated
- 1 cup ricotta whipped
- parsley for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a meatloaf baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Cook ziti pasta per package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat add the oil and sauté the garlic. Add the sausage meat and brown, breaking it up with spoon to crumble. Sprinkle in the herbs, marinara sauce and reserved cooking liquid. Cook for 10 minutes on low. You now have a Bolognese, which is a meat-based sauce (See Note 1).
- In a small bowl whisk the two eggs. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, toss the cooked ziti with 2 cups of bolognese sauce and 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Save remaining bolognese sauce for plating.
- Place half the ziti in a prepared meatloaf baking dish. Add a layer of the mozzarella cheese. Top with the rest of the ziti. Pour the beaten eggs over all and gently tap meatloaf pan on counter to distribute egg and help ziti to settle. Layer 4 slices of provolone on top and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake for 35 minutes, cheese should be golden brown.
- Let it cool in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. Using a kitchen knife, slice the baked ziti into 6 slab-sized servings.
- Gently press remaining finely grated parmesan cheese on each side of the the ziti slab. Heat oil in a skillet on medium high and carefully place the cheese encrusted ziti slab into the hot skillet. Cook it on each side, the cheese will start to melt and form a beautiful golden crunchy crust.
- Serve on a plate with remaining bolognese sauce topped with a spoonful of ricotta and fresh chopped Italian parsley.