baked ziti
The Traditional Italian Dishes That Inspired Classic Baked Ziti
By C.A. Pinkham
Although baked ziti was created in America, it was inspired by very traditional Italian dishes. In particular, two stand out as inspiration: Pasta al forno and pasta au gratin.
Technically, "al forno" is Italian for "baked," so pasta al forno refers to any baked pasta dish. This means that something like ziti or lasagna could be considered pasta al forno.
However, pasta al forno is typically not used to refer to either lasagna or baked
ziti — at least not in Italy. In Italy, pasta al forno uses shapes like rigatoni or cannelloni.
Nevertheless, this is the closest relative to baked ziti, and a lot of versions of baked ziti look pretty similar to traditional pasta al forno, just with different pasta shapes.
Pasta au gratin is considered a Neapolitan dish from Southern Italy and is similar to baked mac and cheese, made with a bechamel sauce, cheese, and rigatoni, macaroni, or ziti.
It is likely that baked ziti descended from a combination of both these dishes. Ziti pasta was originally served at bridal dinners, but it has since turned into an everyday dish.