Utah Bites

Ziti with Fresh Mozzarella & Marinara

Ziti with marinara sauce and lots of melted and browned cheese is a perfect wintertime comfort food that is very easy to make.


Ziti with marinara sauce and lots of melted and browned cheese is a perfect wintertime comfort food that is very easy to make. If you want to cut corners, you could use a large jar of store bought marinara sauce, but the homemade marinara recipe here is very simple and delicious. 


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil 
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly mashed 
  • 1 28 oz. can good-quality peeled Italian tomatoes (You can also use crushed tomatoes or tomato puree.)
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. red-chili flakes (optional)
  • a few fresh basil leaves
  • freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar 
  • 1 lb. dried pasta: ziti or your favorite macaroni-style pasta like rigatoni or penne  
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella – half cut into small ½ inch cubes and half thinly sliced
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2.  Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves and saute until lightly browned, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Remove and discard the cooked garlic. You want to infuse the olive oil for the sauce with the garlic, but not have bitter garlic in the sauce. 
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Then, to make your marinara, add the peeled tomatoes, tomato sauce, fresh basil, chili flakes and a few grinds of black pepper. If you add the tomatoes to the hot pan it can splatter and burn you, not to mention make a mess. That’s why I allow the olive oil to cool before adding the sauce ingredients.
  5. Use a spoon, spatula, or potato masher to break up the peeled tomatoes if you use whole tomatoes. 
  6. Bring the sauce to a boil, then turn down the heat and allow the sauce to simmer for 1/2 hour. Just before using the sauce, remove and discard the basil leaves and stir in the 1/2 tsp. Sugar.
  7. While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to package directions in a large pot of boiling water, just to al dente.
  8. Drain the cooked pasta in a colander and transfer to an oiled baking dish or casserole. Pour in the marinara, along with the cubed mozzarella and 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir to mix well.
  9. Top the pasta with the sliced mozzarella and the remaining 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. 
  10. Bake in the oven for 1/2 hour, or until the cheese is bubbly and nicely browned in spots.

Serve with crusty bread and a side salad. 



Subscribe to get the latest Utah Bites news and reviews


Food writer Ted Scheffler

Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.

, , ,

Join our newsletter.
Stay informed.

Related Articles