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Easy, delicious, and cheap baked ziti

Wow. I am so sorry I dropped off the map for almost a week! My oldest son, Leo, celebrated his 5th birthday this week, and I spent most of the week prepping for his party and some out of town guests. Since I was thinking of you...and my budget...I have some money saving ideas for you!

For this party, nine kids and around 15 adults took over our small home and back yard. The challenge was feeding all of them and feeding them well. In days past I would have had this catered by a local pizzeria that we enjoy. Usually I would order a big pan of ziti, a big pan of salad, and a couple of pizzas. They're prices have gone up since then, but once upon a time, it would have run around $70. (Now, I think they are asking $40 for the ziti alone).

Here's how much the home made version costs.

Baked Ziti:
pasta = $2
sauce = $2.50
ricotta = $1.50
mozzarella = $1.50
Ziti total = $7.50

Lettuce = $3.00
(oil, vinegar, and seasonings all came from my cupboard)

Bagged crusts: $4.00
Sauce = $2.00
Cheese = $3.00
Total = $9.00

Yes. You read that right. I fed all those people (with at least a third of a pan of baked ziti for leftovers) for less than $20.

If I had time to make the pizza crusts, I would have done it all for less than $16. Just saying.

To celebrate my victory over catering costs, I want to share my recipe for baked ziti with you.

First, boil two pounds of ziti, rinse, drain, and put into a big aluminum pan.

Add one large jar of pasta sauce.

Mix until everything is coated.

Add about 12 oz. of ricotta cheese (more or less, depending on your preferences).

Mix until everything is coated.

Take out a package of shredded mozzarella.

Mix about half into the ziti.

Sprinkle the other half on top (not pictured) and bake! Since all the ingredients are cooked, you are pretty much just cooking it to melt the mozzarella. Mine took around 30-40 minutes at 350, but that was probably because it was in the fridge for a while before cooking. Just keep an eye on it; it shouldn't take too long.

Sit back and enjoy the compliments!

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