Baked Ziti Recipe (EASY to make)


Baked Ziti is one of those easy casseroles that tastes like you’ve been cooking all day long but it’s surprisingly quick!

Layers of tender ziti noodles, with a meaty zesty Italian sausage sauce and a cream creamy ricotta cheese layer.

Top it all with a generous helping of mozzarella cheese and bake until bubbly. An amazing meal in about an hour!

a plate of baked ziti

Why We Love Baked Ziti

Rich, zesty, cheesy and best of all, it’s easy!

  • Baked ziti with ricotta is an easy twist on a classic lasagna recipe.
  • Instead of long lasagna noodles, we use ziti pasta and bake it with meat sauce and lots of cheese.
  • It rivals any restaurant pasta for less cost and it has heaps of flavor!
  • Adding Italian sausage to this ziti recipe (or any pasta sauce) makes a quick sauce taste like it’s been cooking for hours!
  • This ziti dish is perfect to make ahead and it reheats and freezes well. Cook once and enjoy for days!

ingredients for baked ziti

Ingredients

SAUCE: The sauce is made with Italian sausage which adds lots of flavor. You can swap it for ground beef (or ground turkey) but be sure to add extra seasonings or spices (and some chili flakes for heat) and a tablespoon of olive oil for flavor. To make this dish vegetarian, use finely minced vegetables like mushrooms, eggplant, and/or zucchini.

I like the addition of  pasta sauce since it’s already seasoned but feel free to use tomato sauce and add a bit of Italian seasoning if it’s what you have on hand

PASTA – Ziti is our pasta of choice but any medium pasta will work. Swap out with penne or turn it into rigatoni pasta.

CHEESE – Ricotta cheese makes up the creamy cheese layer. You can swap it out by blending cottage cheese with an egg until smooth. I stir in some cheese, spinach or additional herbs can be added.

TOPPING – More cheese. Mozzarella is the perfect topper and I always garnish with a pinch of freshly grated parmesan cheese and some fresh herbs like parsley or basil.

Variations

Swap up this baked ziti recipe to your liking with the following:

    • Swap the sausage with turkey sausage or another ground meat of your choice. Add extra seasonings, salt, and a clove of garlic if not using sausage.
    • Add more ‘heat’ by adding a dash of red pepper flakes…just a little spicy.
    • Add 1/2 cup heavy cream to the simmering tomato sauce if desired.
    • Extra fresh herbs can be added to the cheese mixture or on top before serving.

preparing baked ziti casserole

How to Make Baked Ziti

  1. Brown the sausage and onion over medium-high heat (per the recipe below). Add sauce ingredients and simmer.
  2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water.
  3. Combine the cheese mixture in a small bowl.
  4. In a greased baking dish, layer sauce, ziti, and the ricotta mixture.
  5. Top with the remaining shredded mozzarella and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

baked ziti casserole ready to go in the oven

How Long to Cook Baked Ziti

This easy Baked Ziti recipe is basically cooked so the baking is to blend the flavors, heat everything through and of course, melt the cheese. Cook it uncovered until the top looks bubbly and browned!

    • 350°F for 30-35 minutes
    • 375°F for 25-30 minutes
    • 400°F for 20-25 minutes

Tips for a Great Baked Ziti

  • Use a large sauté pan so the sauce can simmer without overflowing.
  • Cook the pasta al dente (a little undercooked) as it will continue to cook as it bakes.
  • This dish can be baked in any large casserole dish.
  • Top with fresh basil or parsley for serving.
  • To make Baked Ziti ahead of time, prepare as directed and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. You may need to add an extra 5-10 minutes baking time if your recipe is chilly from the fridge.
  • If desired, this can be divided into two 9-inch baking dishes and half can be frozen. Thaw overnight in the fridge and bake until hot and bubbly.

To Reheat Baked Ziti use either the microwave or pop it back in the oven on low, slow heat. Reheating baked ziti doesn’t change the texture or the flavor, but adding an extra layer of shredded mozzarella to the top freshens it up just a bit!

baked ziti casserole in a white dish

More Italian Inspired Favorites

Did you enjoy this Baked Ziti? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!

Easy Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti has layers of zesty meat sauce, ricotta cheese and tender ziti noodles baked until golden.


Follow Spend with Pennies on Pinterest

  • Preheat oven to 375°F

  • Brown ground sausage and onion breaking up until the sausage is fairly fine. Drain any fat.

  • Add in Italian seasoning, water, tomatoes and pasta sauce. Simmer 10-15 minutes or until thickened.

  • Meanwhile, boil ziti in salted water until al dente. Drain and rinse.

  • In a small bowl, mix ricotta, egg, parsley, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese.

  • Add a thin layer (about 1 cup) of sauce to the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan. Layer half of the ziti, top with all of the ricotta, and half of the sauce.

  • Add remaining ziti, remaining sauce, and top with cheese.

  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

  • Use a large saute pan so the sauce can simmer without overflowing.
  • Cook the pasta al dente (a little undercooked) as it will continue to cook as it bakes.
  • If using ground meat besides sausage, add additional seasonings, salt & a tablespoon of olive oil to the sauce.
  • Top with fresh basil or parsley for serving.
  • To make Baked Ziti ahead of time, prepare as directed and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. You may need to add an extra 5-10 minutes baking time if your recipe is chilly from the fridge.
  • If desired, this can be divided into two 9-inch baking dishes and half can be frozen. Thaw overnight in the fridge and bake until hot and bubbly.

Calories: 598, Carbohydrates: 54g, Protein: 34g, Fat: 27g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Cholesterol: 97mg, Sodium: 1257mg, Potassium: 816mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 1005IU, Vitamin C: 15mg, Calcium: 485mg, Iron: 3.6mg

(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)

Course Main Course, Pasta

Cuisine Italian

To Freeze Baked Ziti

Like most casseroles, baked ziti can be frozen successfully. If you are freezing the entire casserole in one piece, be sure to line the dish with aluminum foil before assembling and baking, then, once it is chilled, freeze in the pan and then remove the casserole and wrap it in aluminum foil and plastic wrap, label, and place in the fridge.

Or, portion into smaller pieces and put in freezer bags, label, and freeze! Easy peasy lunch for school or work!

Baked Ziti on a plate with cheese
Baked Ziti with cheese baked shown with a title




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