Oh guys. I am super super into melted zucchini baked ziti right now.
Pretty sure this is my summer love language.
It’s been my little secret in the kitchen for the last few weeks. It’s a dish we’ve eaten constantly. Eddie is thisssss close to being sick of it because I’ve made it so much. Oh well! More for me.
Plus look at all that green! And garlic! Totally an excellent way to eat veggies.
I absolutely love this method of cooking zucchini. It melts into an almost-sauce. You sauté it with some olive oil, salt and garlic and is melts into zucchini strands that are soft and flavorful and kind of caramelized!
It’s SO good.
I’ve made a zucchini sauce recipe before from bon appetit, but a few weeks ago my friend Flavia started making a version of the zucchini pasta on her instagram. It got me SO excited for summer and all the uses for zucchini. Other than this summer squash brown butter pasta, another huge fave.
And this one is great because you can use up a LOT of zucchini squash. For instance, I like to make this sauce with four or five whole zucchini. They melt down so much (almost like when you cook onions) that you will be shocked!
Also! This baked ziti is for all my friends who are usually very underwhelmed by baked ziti. Hi. It’s me! Right?!
There are a few variations of baked ziti that are incredible, and actually I have another one coming in my book next year. But on the regular, it’s just not like there is much going on and if you don’t love tomato sauce, it can be even more underwhelming! Hi. Me again.
This is the solution.
A summery baked pasta. It’s perfect as a side dish for a party or amazing for dinner with a big greens salad. I’ve probably made this dish ten times in the last month, giving it away to friends and family with abandon. Pretty sure come the end of the summer with zucchini is everywhere, I’ll have a bunch at my doorstep!
Here’s the scoop:
It’s still simple and flavorful, almost like a naked pasta. Noodles, zucchini, garlic and olive oil. Some pesto stirred in towards the end. Any variety you like! Loaded up with parmesan, ricotta and fresh mozzarella. Tons of chopped fresh basil too!
Make it in a skillet for weeknight dinner, or make it in a baking dish to take to a cookout as the side dish.
Oh and I actually have another skillet lasagna coming next week that is similar and oh so good – with other flavors that just scream summer.
Anywayyyy… you bake it for just a bit to bring everything together. Then eat the cheesy goodness.
Simple, flavorful and so insanely good!
Melted Zucchini Baked Ziti
Yield: 4 as a meal, 6 as a side dish
This melted zucchini ziti is made with an olive oil zucchini sauce, lots of garlic, fresh basil, ricotta and mozzarella. It’s summer perfect!
- 1 pound ziti pasta, or similar cut noodle
- ½ cup reserved pasta water
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 4 medium zucchini squash, sliced into rounds or chopped
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons pesto
- 1 cup packed fresh basil, plus extra for topping
- 12 ounces ricotta cheese
- 12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- grated parmesan cheese, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Be sure to reserve the ½ cup of the pasta water after cooking!
Heat a large skillet (you can do an oven safe one if you don’t want to transfer) over medium-low heat and add the olive oil. Add the zucchini, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, until the zucchini cook down and sort of melt into the pan. Stir in the red pepper flakes.
Stir in the reserved pasta water and the pesto. Stir in the fresh basil. By this time the pasta should be finished. You can either add everything to a baking dish or add it all to the skillet if it’s large enough. Toss the pasta with the zucchini pesto mixture – whether it’s in the dish or skillet.
Add the ricotta cheese in scoops throughout the pasta. Toss it together until the ricotta coats most of the pasta. Add the fresh mozzarella – a few slices in the noodles and a few on top too.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, just until the cheese melts everything comes together. Remove and serve immediately with a sprinkle of fresh parmesan and fresh basil for garnish.