Meatless Mondays: Skillet Baked Ziti

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Y'all, I have had this recipe in the stack for almost seven years.  It was way past time to try this one out, and now that I did, I know I'll be going back again and again.  This baked ziti is easy, quick, and tasty, and has a big bonus: the leftovers stay moist and well sauced, which as you may know, is a hazard with baked pasta dishes.  Both Drew and I really enjoyed this.  Drew even said it may be the best he's had, which is saying a lot, because he used to live in Upstate New York, where there's a lot of Italian influence.

The recipe comes to us from America's Test Kitchen, and I love their recipes and their PBS show.  The recipes come to you after a ton of testing, and they are thorough and leave next to nothing to chance.  I made a couple changes to the original recipe so I'll post the original and my own changes side by side.

Skillet Baked Ziti
from America's Test Kitchen

Serves 4

1 Tb Olive Oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
3 cups water
12 oz. (3 3/4 cups) ziti (I used penne rigate)
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used half and half)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves (about 2 tsp dried-see notes)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Making the Minutes Count:  Measure the water and pasta before you begin cooking.  Prep the Parmesan and basil while the pasta cooks.

Simmer Ziti:  Combine oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a 12 inch, ovensafe nonstick skillet and saute over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add tomatoes, water, ziti, and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Cover and cook, stirring often and adjusting heat as needed to maintain vigorous simmer, until ziti is almost tender, 15-18 minutes.

Add Cheese and Bake:  Stir in cream, Parmesan, and basil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over ziti.  Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cheese has melted and browned, about 10 minutes.  Serve.


  • All of my modifications here are based off what I had on hand, which were penne rigate, half and half, and dried basil.
  • A good tip I have learned from some food mentors is to rub the herbs in between your palms to sort of wake up the flavors before you add it to your dish.
  • I don't have a 12 inch nonstick ovensafe skillet.  I used my 12 inch saute pot (a shorter pot) that is not nonstick.  It worked fine.  I bet enameled cast iron would work great here.
  • We made the recipe without meat, but I bet some cooked ground beef, Italian sausage, or cooked, cubed chicken stirred in with the cheese and cream would be a good modification.

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