The Best baked ziti you’ll have in your life

In the title is a bold statement, which I stand by whole heartedly. As a new food content creator, it’s hard to get a sense of confidence. There are so many people doing so much work on each and every dish under the sun, how can one former-construction-worker/ self-trained-home-cook possibly compete? The short answer is that you can’t. But… You also shouldn’t. Every blog post, video, instagram story or reel or tiktok or whatever, I try to bring a little of my own flair to the subject matter at hand.

But this post isn’t about my flair when it comes to a classic American comfort food. Its about taking a classic dish and taking some extra time, attention, and adding some basic techniques to make a marked improvement. I explained most of these techniques in the instructional video, but I wanted to fully explain one of them here.: Fond.

It may be the most used food writing trope to say that you’re “fond of fond”, so I’ll try to avoid it, but it is really great at adding layers of flavor to your dish. Whenever you caramelize or sear something, be it chicken, meat, mushrooms, tomato paste, onions, whatever, inevitably there are some bits of the food that get stuck to the bottom of the pan and get a little more… well done than the rest of it. I say “well done” instead of “burned” because, typically, the flavor of that little bit of food is so. much. better. than the rest of what you just cooked. Also, there is a difference between actually burned, black charcoal stuck to your pan, and the dark brown, extra-well-done treat that is fond. You still have to be mindful of time and temperature control with this, as you do with pretty much any other technique.

The way to release these foods from the bottom of the pan is liquid. When you get liquid on the fond, still at a somewhat high heat, it will allow you to scrape the fond up from the bottom of the pan. This process is called “deglazing”. It cleans off the bottom of your pan, and releases the umami goodness into the rest of the dish.

This, by the way, is essentially the foundation of any pan sauce recipe you’ll find. Sear the meat and remove it from the pan, add some liquid, scrape up the fond, add some other stuff that will make the sauce delicious, and serve.

This of course isn’t the only thing we’re doing to boos the deliciousness of our baked ziti. Other techniques and tips can be found in the instructional video:

Instead of a full recipe, I’m just doing ingredient amounts. If you have any questions about the process or anything here, you can feel free to leave a comment as always!

For the red sauce

  • 1.5 lbs italian sausage – sweet, spicy, or mild to your taste. Use the raw sausage, not the precooked links they have in the grocery store
  • 4 oz pancetta, cubed
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4.5 oz tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 28 oz cans of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
  • Fresh basil, and any other desired fresh herbs, for a bouquet garni (optional)
  • Leftover rinds from Parmesano Reggiano (optional)

Note: Remove the bouquet garni and parm rinds before adding pasta to the sauce

For the bechamel

  • 1 stick, or 8 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 cup of flour, spooned and leveled
  • 6 cups of cold milk
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 oz Parmesano Reggiano
  • 2 oz provolone cheese

For the Pasta

  • 1 lb rigatoni (really, any other short pasta will work, if you’re feeling like a rebel)
  • Salt for the pasta water


  • 12 oz low moisture mozzarella, freshly grated (Not fresh!)
  • 2 oz grated Parmesano Reggiano

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