Monday, May 26, 2014

Easy Creamy Cheesy Baked Ziti

Today is Memorial Day, a day to think of and honor those who served and died fighting for our nation's freedoms. My dad was one of the fortunate ones who served and made it home safely to his family. He was able to come home, get married, have and raise his own family and be best dad a girl could ask for. Now because he's no longer with us, I will always honor him along with those who weren't so fortunate to come home. 

Ultimately, the war in Vietnam had a hand in taking my dad much too soon from us as he was one of the many victims of Agent Orange. My dad passed away from heart disease back in 2005. Not a day goes by that I don't think about him and miss him. I hate that my son Jude never had the chance to meet his Papa, however, I see a lot of my dad in Jude and it makes me smile. And I know that he and my mom are Jude's guardian angels watching over my sweet boy. 

Remembering my dad who served in Vietnam as a helicopter gunner (last on the right back row).

Being off on Memorial Day, I decided to make pasta (something I've been craving lately) for my family for lunch. I wanted something creamy, cheesy and easy to make. I got to thinking about a recent trip to Olive Garden where my hubby, Lance, discovered baked ziti. He loved it so much, he asked if I could make some at home. 

With trial and error, I have come up with my own EASY copycat recipe that Lance said  "I wouldn't mind you making it again" after finishing thirds of the baked pasta concoction. It's not exactly like the Olive Garden baked pasta, but with only 7 ingredients and very little prep and baking time, it's still so yummy you definitely won't be disappointed.


1 box whole wheat ziti or penne pasta (you can use regular if you like)
1 24 oz jar marinara sauce 
1 15 oz jar Alfredo sauce 
2 cups shredded mozzarella 
1 cup shredded Parmesan 
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare pasta as directed on box (boil 11-12 minutes). As pasta is boiling, combine Alfredo and marinara sauces in a large bowl. Add in 1 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella to the sauce mixture (leaving the remaining mozzarella for the top) and mix well. When the pasta is done, drain and add to the sauce mixture and coat completely. Pour into a 9x13 casserole dish (I used 2 8x8 dishes so we could eat one at lunch then reheat the other for dinner). Bake for 25-30 minutes. In the last 10 minutes, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan on top and return to the oven to continue baking. Remove from the oven and serve.

The next time, I'd like to try this recipe and use spaghetti squash as a substitute for the penne pasta. I'll let you know how it turns out. 

I'd love to know if you made this recipe and your thoughts on how it turned out and whether your family enjoyed it. Be sure to comment and, if you like the recipes you see here, subscribe! 


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