One thing we all have in common is that we need to eat. Hunger doesn’t care if we’re sick or well, busy or bored, going through a major life change, or processing a loss. It may dissipate for awhile but it always shows back up, asking us to fuel our bodies again.
When a friend or acquaintance goes through a major life event, like having a baby, losing a loved one, moving, or being hospitalized, I often wonder how to help. Prayer is always the answer, and oftentimes, so is food.
A warm meal for an overwhelmed, sick, or grieving friend can provide for them practically. And it is my hope that they’ll be not just physically fed, but they will also feel cared for and loved by a simple act of a homemade meal.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing a series of meals and recipes entitled, “Be a Blessing”. It is designed to provide simple recipes, ideas, and tips in order to care for others when they need it most. The recipes definitely lean toward comfort food, and they are all dishes that I feed my own family.
I should mention that a major life event is not necessary to enjoy these recipes. Maybe one of these recipes is dinner for yourself or your family. Maybe a friend is coming over to chat and you whip up this Simple Baked Ziti. Perhaps someone you know goes through a not-so-major life event, but a life event nonetheless. There’s no need to limit these recipes to major life events. 🙂
Now onto this Simple Baked Ziti! If you can make spaghetti, you can make this dish. It has just six ingredients, and you’ll need minimal equipment. It’s hearty, comforting, a crowd-pleaser, and also kid-friendly.
Simple Baked Ziti can be made in one 13×9 inch pan, or it can be divided into 2 (8-inch) square pans. The latter is particularly helpful if you’d like to freeze half of the recipe for a later date, or even deliver one fresh and one frozen version so the recipients can enjoy it now and later.
If you opt to freeze half of the dish (or the whole dish), you’ll want to choose a freezer-safe dish like glass, metal, or a foil pan. I find that covering the dish with both plastic wrap and aluminum foil will preserve it the best in the freezer. It can be safely stored in the freezer for up to one month. I recommend taping a date and reheating instructions to the foil.
To complete the meal, add a salad and garlic bread. Here are a few ideas for salads!
Church Lady Salad
Italian Chopped Salad
Pomegranate & Toasted Walnut Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
Apple Pecan Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Apple Pecan Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
For each of these salad recipes, pack the ingredients in separate containers like plastic zip-top bags. If apples are included, toss them with lemon juice before packing them.
If you’re short on time, head to the grocery store and pick up a salad-in-a-bag. There are so many tasty options to choose from.
Scroll to the bottom of this Chicken Paillard post for my Parmesan Garlic Bread recipe.
More recipes from the Be a Blessing series:
Cinnamon Streusel Apple Bread
Easy Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas
Authentic Mexican Rice
White Chicken Chili with Potatoes and White Beans
Super Flaky Southern Biscuits
Pull-Apart Garlic Bread
Fall Vegetable Minestrone
Simple Baked Ziti (Freezer Friendly)
This dish is commonly known as baked ziti, but I used rigatoni because it has ridges to catch all of that delicious sauce! Most short pastas will work here, including rigatoni, ziti, or penne.
- Prep Time: 15
- Cook Time: 35
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 6–8 servings 1x
- Category: Entree
- Cuisine: Italian
- 1 (1 lb) short pasta like ziti, penne, or rigatoni (I used rigatoni)
- 4 cups marinara sauce (this is about 1½ 24-oz jars)
- 1 lb uncooked Italian sausage (sweet or hot)
- 2½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- For garnish just before serving: fresh basil
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, remove the casings from the sausage and place in a sauté pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring to break up the sausage, until the sausage is no longer pink. Drain the grease out of the pan.
- Add the marinara sauce to the pan with the sausage and stir to combine. Gently whisk in the ricotta cheese without fully incorporating it into the sauce, leaving some pockets of cheese. Add the pasta and stir gently to combine.
- Pour half the pasta mixture into a 9×13 inch pan OR 2 (8-inch) pans. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Top with the remaining pasta, followed by the remainder of the cheese.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the filling is bubbly.
If freezing any portion of this dish, proceed through step #4. Then cover the dish with plastic wrap and top the plastic wrap with aluminum foil. Label the dish with the contents and today’s date. When ready to serve, defrost the dish overnight in the refrigerator, remove the plastic wrap and replace the foil. Bake for 30–40 minutes, taking the foil off for the last 10 minutes of cooking. If cooking from frozen, remove the plastic wrap and replace the foil. Bake from frozen for 50–60 minutes, taking the foil off for the last 10 minutes of cooking. The Simple Baked Ziti can be frozen for up to a month.
Keywords: pasta, be a blessing series