30 Minutes or Less Dinner Freezer Meals Make Ahead - Heat & Serve Recipes

Baked Ziti with Vodka Sauce

Baked ziti with vodka sauce being scooped out of a casserole baking dish.

Ever have one of those days where you just don’t want to go to the market but you still want to give your family a nice homemade dinner and you have no idea what to make? This baked ziti with vodka sauce recipe came from one of those days in my house. It’s actually made entirely of ingredients I keep in the pantry and refrigerator. I love it when it all just works out like that.

The recipe begins with making a super simple homemade vodka sauce. The sauce itself is the most tedious part of making this recipe but let’s be honest… opening a can of tomatoes, dicing an onion and dumping in the rest of the ingredients can hardly be called tedious. BUT if we disagree and this does in fact sound like more effort than you can give today, just use a jar of store bought sauce and skip ahead to boiling the pasta and assembling your ziti.

This Baked Ziti with Vodka Sauce is loaded up with shredded chicken, crispy prosciutto and peas. All you need is a green salad and a warm piece of bread for soaking up the extra sauce and dinner time is conquered.

About the Ingredients

Shredded chicken – I like to bake 3 chicken breasts on a sheet pan at 375° F for 25 minutes. Spray the pan with cooking spray and season the chicken with salt and pepper and then bake it until it reaches 165° F. Once it’s cooked you can shred it with a knife on a cutting board or put it in an electric stand mixer (more on that here.)

Frozen peas – no need to thaw them. They will warm up quickly when you mix them into the ziti.

Prosciutto if you buy the pre-sliced packages in the deil like this Boar’s Head prosciutto you can use the whole package. The pieces are little once they cook and it’s nice to get a little taste in every bite with the pasta.

Onion and garlic – chopped small for the base of the sauce.

Vodka – you’ll need 1/2 a cup. It will get cooked down before adding the other liquid so the alcohol will be completely gone. I used Tito’s Vodka but any unflavored vodka is good.

Crushed tomatoes – these are the big 28oz cans. I keep a case of them in the pantry.

Seasonings – oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

Heavy cream – this is where vodka sauce gets it’s silky thick texture from.

Cheese – grated parmesan and shredded mozzarella.

Pasta – I used elbows but any small noodle is good. I tend to use noodles that get fully coated in sauce rather than noodles like penne or ziti that the sauce never really gets all the way inside. But go with what you like!

A tray of Baked ziti with vodka sauce

How to Make Baked Ziti with Vodka Sauce

Begin by chopping and then crisping the prosciutto in a hot pan. No extra oil is need here, just the ham. It should get nice and crispy just like bacon.

While you work on the proscuitto you can set a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling add a generous amount of salt and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta using a colander when it reaches al dente.

Let’s also make the vodka sauce. In a little bit of oil, sauté the chopped onion and garlic until it softens. Pour in the vodka and let simmer to reduce. This will cook off the alcohol so you sauce isn’t a boozy mess. Add in the crushed tomatoes, 1/2 cup water, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and let it simmer to blend all of the flavors together.. Turn the heat down to low, pour in the heavy cream and stir in half of the parmesan cheese. Don’t forget to taste it for salt and pepper. 

Now it’s time to assemble the ziti. In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked pasta, shredded chicken, crispy prosciutto, thawed peas and all of the vodka sauce. Transfer the mixture to a 9×13 baking dish and finish it off by topping it with cheese and a sprinkle of herbs. Pop your tray in the oven and bake it until it’s melty and bubbly.

Baked ziti with vodka sauce being scooped out of a casserole dish.

Recipe Substitutions & Variations

Baked Ziti with Vodka Sauce is basically a two part recipe. It’s making the sauce and then assembling the casserole. The sauce itself is great with lots of different recipes. I use it for homemade pizza, pour it over a steamy bowl of pasta or swap out the tomato sauce for vodka sauce in this Ravioli Lasagna. Try whipping up a pot of sauce, dividing it into small 12 oz mason jars and then freezing it. That way when you need something to reach for last minute, you’ve got homemade vodka sauce ready to go.

FAQ’s and Recipe Tips

What should I serve with Baked Ziti with Vodka Sauce?

Baked ziti is very filling so you don’t need much. A lightly dressed green salad and a piece of bread are perfect compliments.

Can I make Baked Ziti with Vodka Sauce ahead of time?

Definitely. Assemble the casserole but don’t bake it. Cover it and refrigerate for later in the week or pop it in the freezer if you’re saving it longer than 3 days.

Can I freeze vodka sauce?

Yes – separate the sauce into freezer safe jars and let it cool to room temperature. Leave a little room at the top for the sauce to expand as it freezes. Then put the lid on and move it to the freezer. It will store for 2 months.

How long do I need to bake Baked Ziti for?

Everything in the casserole is already cooked so you only need to bake it long enough to get it nice and hot. If you’ve just finished making the sauce and boiling the pasta this means just long enough to melt the cheese – about 10 minutes. If you’re baking the ziti from the refrigerator or freezer it will be longer so plan accordingly. Don’t forget to cover the pan with foil so the cheese doesn’t burn. Remove the foil for the last 10-15 minutes of baking.

Baked ziti with vodka sauce served with homemade focaccia bread.

The Recipe for Baked Ziti with Vodka Sauce

The recipe is attached below for easy downloading and printing.  If you test it out be sure to leave a note in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you thought of the homemade vodka sauce. Would you use it in another recipe? Enjoy!

Baked ziti with vodka sauce being scooped out of a casserole baking dish.

Baked Ziti with Vodka Sauce

Homemade vodka sauce with the addition of crispy prosciutto, shredded chicken and peas make this casserole a complete meal by itself. Make it ahead of time and warm it up just before dinner and you'll have a great meal with no fuss.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Active Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

  • 4 oz prosciutto
  • ½ onion diced small
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese divided
  • 1 cup frozen peas thawed
  • 1 lb cooked chicken shredded
  • 1 lb pasta such as elbow macaroni
  • 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley chopped

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375° F.
  • Chop the prosciutto. In a small skillet over medium high heat, cook for 4 minutes or until crispy, stirring often to prevent burning. Once brown and crispy, remove from pan and set aside.
    4 oz prosciutto
  • Set a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling add a generous amount of salt and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta using a colander when it reaches al dente.
    1 lb pasta
  • While the pasta cooks, make the vodka sauce. In a little bit of oil, sauté the chopped onion and garlic for about 3 minutes.
    ½ onion, 3 tsp minced garlic
  • Pour in the vodka and let simmer to reduce by half. This should take another 3 minutes or so.
    ½ cup vodka
  • Add in the crushed tomatoes, ½ cup water, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.
    28 oz crushed tomatoes, 1 tsp oregano, ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper
  • Turn the heat down to low and pour in the heavy cream and stir in half of the parmesan cheese. Taste for salt and pepper.
    ¾ cup heavy cream, ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked pasta, shredded chicken, crispy proscuitto, thawed peas and all of the vodka sauce. Mix everything together well. Transfer the mixture to a 9×13 baking dish.
    1 cup frozen peas, 1 lb cooked chicken
  • Top the pasta with shredded mozzarella, remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, a sprinkle of oregano and chopped fresh parsley.
    1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese, 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • Bake until the cheese melts and the casserole is hot and bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Notes

Make ahead: Make this baked ziti ahead of time by following the recipe right up until baking. Cover it and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Then bake and serve. 
Freezer meal: baked ziti makes a great freezer meal. Follow the recipe right up until baking then cover and freeze for up to 2 months. When ready, thaw the casserole in the refrigerator over night. Bake and serve at dinner time. 
Make the sauce separately: vodka sauce is great on pasta, pizza and as dipping sauce. Use this recipe to make a pot of sauce and then divide it and save it for use with other recipes. 
Keyword casserole, pasta, shredded chicken

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4 Comments

  1. This meal looks delicious!! I’ll try to make it vegan so I can taste it at home! Thank you so much for this recipe ??

    1. Nice! I’m sure adjusting it to be vegan will work great

  2. catiasteel says:

    This looks so good. I’m going to try it tonight!

    1. Let me know how it goes!!

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