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!

a plate of baked ziti
4.96 from 498 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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Easy Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti has layers of zesty meat sauce, ricotta cheese and tender ziti noodles baked until golden.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 8 servings

Ingredients  

  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 28 ounces pasta sauce or marinara sauce
  • 14 ounces diced tomatoes undrained
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • ½ cup water
  • 16 ounces ziti
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese shredded

Instructions 

  • 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 9x13 pan. Layer half of the ziti, top with all of the ricotta mixture, and half of the sauce.
  • Add remaining ziti, remaining sauce, and top with remaining mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Video

Notes

  • 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.
4.96 from 498 votes

Nutrition Information

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!

plated Baked Ziti with a title
cheesy Baked Ziti on a plate with writing
casserole dish of Baked Ziti with writing
close up of plated Baked Ziti with writing
dish full of cooked Baked Ziti and plated with writing

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About the author

Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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Comments

  1. I made this for a potluck dinner the other night with Gluten free noodles (Banza) and it was a hit with everyone! I’m not huge on the fennel flavor in sausage, so I halved the portion for the recipe and subbed in some lean ground beef. It’s like lasagna! We have tons of leftovers but my gluten free sister is happily gobbling up the closest she’s had to “homemade lasagna” in a while :)5 stars

      1. I ended up using a very similar recipe to yours (without the egg) for crockpot ziti and it turned out amazing!!! I cooked the noodles al dente and browned the meat then combined all the ingredients in the crock pot on high for about an hour or two. Definitely a keeper!

  2. This recipe made a ton of food, my family devoured it. I made it with 1 lb of beef but, I will make this again with hot italian sausage, petite diced green pepper and onion. My husband had FOUR helpings. I couldn’t believe how quickly it disappeared. This was delicious, creamy, hearty and very easy. My family likes alot of sauce so I will add more next time. This is honestly a “restaurant-yummy” dish you can make, save money and stay home! If you’re considering making this, do it, you will be very pleased.5 stars

  3. Just pulled it from the oven. Couldn’t wait to taste it. Awesome is an understatement. Even the hubby said, “this is really good”. Served it with some Texas Toast.5 stars

  4. Just pulled it from the oven. Could wait to taste it. Awesome is an understatement. Even the hubby said, “this is really good”. Served it with some Texas Toast.5 stars

  5. Made your baked ziti, and it was delicious! Loved the perfect balance of flavors, and so easy to make!
    Thanks for your great recipes, always superb!5 stars

  6. Was delicious. Made a few modifications as far as using ground beef since that’s what I had in the freezer and added more sauce and some more seasonings to the ground beef while cooking it. Also, I’ve always covered my baked ziti or lasagna with foil to prevent the cheese on top from drying out and from burning then take the foil off like the last 5-10 minutes. However, I was following these directions more and it didn’t say to cover. I should have because the cheese completely burnt. My kids would not eat it.4 stars

  7. I am using your recipe with a different assembly method and using ground beef instead of sausage. I read a lot of the comments, keeping in mind that it probably needs more sauce. I am using Rao’s marinara and I got some fresh Basil to top it after it comes out of the oven. I had baked ziti at a wedding once and I fell in love with it. I am hopeful that this will be just as good, if not better than the first time. Thanks for sharing the recipe.5 stars

  8. I made this tonight for dinner it was just awesome. My son who is so picky is coming for seconds later. Thank you Holly for such a great recipe. I even like it better than lasagna it’s a real keeper!5 stars

  9. The flavor was good but not saucy enough for me. Next time I will put in less pasta. Thank you for the recipe!4 stars

  10. After preparing the meat mixture there is no instruction when to layer it in so I layered Zita then meat both times

    1. Hi Dana, you will find the instructions on how to layer baked ziti in step 6 and 7. Start by adding 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 mixture, and half of the sauce. Then add the remaining ziti, then the remaining sauce, and top with remaining mozzarella cheese. I hope that helps!

  11. I made this with gluten free penne because I couldn’t find gf penne – it was delicious and a big hit at the church supper I took it to. I’m making it again tonight for a break from the holiday food.5 stars

  12. I used a pound of penne (our store doesn’t carry ziti) and next time I’ll half it. It was delicious but I would rather it be more “saucy”, mine didn’t look like yours, too much pasta. I used half Italian sausage and 1/2 ground beef.
    Husband declared the recipe a keeper.

  13. this is a great and simple recipe! Chef, the instructions indicate to add all cheese, including ricotta together with egg, but instructions also indicate to apply all ricotta in one layer and tip with cheese. For less experience cooks would you kindly update for clarity?

    thanks for a great recipe!

    1. Hi Nikkie, instructions say to add ricotta with egg, 1 cup of Mozzarella, and Parmesan. Then at the end you add remaining Mozzarella on top. Hope that helps!

  14. I made this tonight and it was delicious. Just the right balance of flavors, sauce, cheese , pasta and meat. I’ll freeze half for Christmas Eve dinner add a salad and garlic bread and voila. I would post a pic of it but can’t figure out how to do that. Recipes on this site are really good and many times a lot healthier versions of the same out there. I appreciate that. I used ground turkey and added my own sausage spices to the meat. I used an upscale jarred marinara. Thanks for a great dish.5 stars

  15. Hi!
    Question: -for a group of 10 people:Can I double and put it all in a deep dish disposable foil pan? Do I cook longer? So happy I found this recipe!!:)

    1. This should work just fine, foil pans do not conduct heat the same way so it will need extra cooking time. I do recommend setting the foil pan on a baking sheet if possible.