Baked Penne with Four Cheeses


12 oz short tubular pasta like penne or ziti

for the sauce:
3/4 lb ground beef
32 oz can tomatoes in puree, chopped*
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon oregano

for the cheese mixture:
15 ounce ricotta cheese
5 oz frozen chopped spinach
1 egg
4 oz grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz asiago, grated
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

for sprinkling
mozzarella cheese, finely shredded

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish. Cook pasta until almost al dente. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients of the cheese mixture. Set aside. Heat oil in large saucepan. Add onion, garlic and carrot, red pepper flakes and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. And the ground beef and sauté until almost cooked through. Drain off any rendered fat if needed. Mix in tomato paste, tomato chunks in puree and oregano. Simmer until mixture thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, covered, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread a small amount of tomato sauce over bottom of the dish. Top with some pasta. Dot with cheese mixture. Top with more sauce. Repeat until all of the pasta, cheese and sauce is gone, ending with sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake until heated through, about 35-40 minutes. Remove the foil and cook about 2-3 minutes to brown the cheese on top. Allow to sit a few minutes before serving.

*I just stick a long knife into the center of the can and slice towards the can to cut the tomatoes into manageable chunks. Much less messy than using a cutting board.

My thoughts:

Matt really likes baked ziti so I created this recipe to be sort of an über ziti using all of his favorite ingredients. I did use penne because we had it on hand, but any sort of short pasta would work. It is actually just as good in a vegetarian version, just omit the ground beef and follow the rest of the directions as is. I just added the beef because that’s how Matt likes it, it is great either way. It can also be made the day ahead, all the way up to the actially baking, just cover and refrigerate it until you are ready to cook. I’d let it warm up a bit on the counter while you preheat the oven.


  1. Alejandra Ramos

    This looks delicious!! (And I love that sectioned plate!)

  2. A great comforting dish. Looks so full of flavor!

  3. that looks so yummy! i totally want to make that tonight for dinner!

  4. Jessy and her dog Winnie

    That looks really yummy. I wish I was having that for dinner.

  5. I bet your lunch tray beings all the boys to the yard. Totally awesome.

  6. heather (errantdreams)

    Mmmmm. Now I’m craving ziti!

  7. I just love your recipes. i link you to my readers quite regularly. Keep up with these wonderful yummy dishes. Hint, I love desserts even more! lol.

  8. I’m definitely making the vegetarian version…mmmm four cheeses!

  9. It’s 9 degrees in Kansas — I’m thinking baked penne with four cheeses in front of the fireplace, with a nice glass of Domaine De La Renjarde.

  10. Oooops — Ditto, but with the real link. Carolyn

  11. You can also use kitchen scissors to cut up tomatoes in a can 🙂

  12. Made this two weeks ago and it’s delicious! It’s a great way to throw in extra veggies to fool a kid (takes on the flavor of the meat sauce). Also helpful to use fortified/whole wheat pasta. Thanks!