I grew up eating baked ziti at least once a week, but it wasn’t until this year that I learned there was an easier, faster way to get things in the oven and on their way to my mouth. Instead of having multiple pots bubbling away on the stovetop before you even preheat the oven, I discovered a quick pasta hack that eliminates the need to use the stove top at all.

Thirty minutes before you start cooking, preheat the oven and put some dried pasta in a large bowl and cover it with boiling water. In a half hour your oven is preheated and your pasta is ready to be strained, mixed with sauce and cheese, and baked until bubbly and delicious. The soaking step eliminates the need to parboil the pasta, and as long as your sauce isn’t frozen you don’t need to heat it up before mixing everything together. This simple, streamlined baked ziti (or rigatoni, or whichever pasta you use) makes getting comfort food on the table a delicious possibility even on the busiest weeknights.

Above is the pasta before soaking.

And here’s what the pasta looks like after being reconstituted in the hot water.

Easy Baked Pasta

(Serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound dried pasta
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce (or homemade)
  • 10 basil leaves, torn, plus more for garnish
  • 8 ounces Miyoko’s Vegan Mozz, diced (or 4 ounces mascarpone cheese + 4 ounces diced fresh mozzarella)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Add dried pasta to a large bowl. Pour in enough boiling water for the pasta to be covered by about 2 inches of liquid. Let soak for 30-40 minutes, or until the pasta has absorbed much of the water and is flexible to the touch. Strain the pasta.
  2. If using Vegan Mozz: Toss pasta with the jar of marinara, basil leaves, and 3/4 of the Vegan Mozz. Pour the mixture into a baking dish, then top with the remaining Vegan Mozz. If using mascarpone and mozzarella: Toss pasta with the jar of marinara and basil leaves. Add spoonfuls of mascarpone to the mixture, along with half of the fresh mozzarella, then toss again. Add to a baking dish and top with the remaining mozzarella.
  3. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil, then cook in a 350-degree-Fahrenheit oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, and cook for another 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and let sit 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Optional: In the last 10 minutes of cooking, sprinkle a generous handful of shredded Parmesan cheese or seasoned panko breadcrumbs on top of the dish.

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(Photos via Justina Huddleston/Brit + Co)