Blogger Spotlight

Mel’s Kitchen Cafe Prepares Our Make-Ahead Baked Ziti

A make-ahead, one-pot weeknight dinner wowed this food blogger and her family.

Published Nov. 25, 2017.

The Complete Make-Ahead Cookbook is America’s Test Kitchen’s first all-purpose make-ahead cookbook packed with 500 fresh recipes re-engineered by the test kitchen to work around your busy schedule. Each of the 250 recipes are kitchen-tested to not only work, but to exceed expectations every time, from party-ready appetizers to healthy salads to easy one-dish meals to company worthy roasts and desserts. And every recipe can be made straight through, too.


Busy weeknights call for make-ahead convenience. To get dinner on the table, Mel of Mel’s Kitchen Cafe turns to our newest release, The Complete Make Ahead Cookbook, for a cheesy pasta casserole to feed her family.

“Not only is this cheesy baked ziti super easy to make AND crazy delicious, but it can be made ahead of time and frozen,” writes Mel. “Time to stock the freezer with cheesy pasta casseroles!”

We spent months researching and developing great-tasting, make-ahead recipes for every occasion, including weeknight meals.

For an inspired baked ziti, we focused on perfecting every element of this family favorite. Sautéed garlic and red pepper flakes provided a savory foundation to our easy sauce, and two big cans of crushed tomatoes added rich, long-simmered flavor.

To combat dryness we stir in some of the pasta cooking water to the sauce. When layering the dish, we use a middle layer of ricotta cheese, promising creamy pockets, while a topping of shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan give the ziti a nicely browned crust.

We dollop creamy ricotta between two layers of sauced pasta for the ultimate baked ziti.

“Even though it makes use of a homemade red sauce—it’s simple as simple can be!” exclaims Mel. “AND, you use the same pot start to finish, which is pretty much awesome in terms of dishwashing. I don’t know about you, but the minute I can save time in the dishwashing department, I instantly have a new outlook on life.”

No guesswork. No mistakes.

The Complete Make-Ahead Cookbook

This cookbook is your ticket to a lifetime of easier meal planning, make-ahead cooking, and entertaining.  
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What’s your favorite make-ahead meal? Let us know in the comments! For the recipe for Baked Ziti with Ricotta Cheese, read Mel’s post. And for more from The Complete Make-Ahead Cookbook, read these posts:

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