Easy Baked Ziti

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Baked Ziti tastes like you’ve been cooking all day but is surprisingly quick to make!

Italian sausage gives the zesty sauce lots of flavor with little effort. Add in a creamy ricotta layer and a generous sprinkling of cheese and bake until bubbly.

An amazing meal in about an hour!

Baked ziti on a plate with Parmesan cheese and parsley

Why We Love This Recipe

Baked ziti with ricotta is an easy twist on a classic lasagna recipe.  Instead of long lasagna noodles, we use ziti pasta and toss it with the meat sauce.

It rivals any dish I’ve had in a restaurant at a fraction of the cost with heaps of flavor!

Adding Italian sausage in this 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 meals to come!

Baked Ziti ingredients

Ingredients/Variations

Baked ziti is versatile!

Meat Sauce:

    • Italian sausage adds a ton of flavor in this recipe but of you can use ground beef (or turkey).
    • If you swap out the sausage, add extra seasonings or spices (and some chili flakes for heat).

Pasta:

    • Since this is a baked ziti casserole, I use ziti as the base but any medium pasta will work.
    • Swap out with penne or rigatoni to make a baked rigatoni pasta.
    • Cook the pasta it al dente (a little undercooked) as it will continue to cook as it bakes.

Cheese:

    • Ricotta adds a creamy texture. You can swap it out by blending cottage cheese with an egg until smooth.
    • Mozzarella is the perfect topper and I always garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese for great flavor.

Seasonings:

    • Italian Seasoning contains all of the spices you’ll need in this recipe.
    • Add more ‘heat’ by adding a dash of red pepper flakes…just a little spicy. Molto buono Italiano!

 

How to Make Baked Ziti

  1. Brown the sausage and onion. Add sauce ingredients and simmer.
  2. In a small bowl, mix ricotta, parsley, mozzarella and parmesan.

Layers of baked ziti in a casserole dish

  1. Layer sauce, ziti and the ricotta mixture in a casserole dish in order:
    • a little sauce on the bottom
    • half of the cooked ziti
    • all of the ricotta
    • remaining ziti and sauce
  2. Top with the remaining shredded mozzarella and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Baked Ziti with cheese

How Long to Cook Baked Ziti: Baked Ziti 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!

Bake Ziti at

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

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Make Ahead

You can make Baked Ziti Ahead of Time!  Simply prepare as directed and refrigerate up to 24 hours. You may need to add an extra 5-10 minutes bake time if your recipe is chilly from the fridge.

Baked ziti in a casserole dish garnished with parsley

To Reheat Baked Ziti use either the microwave or pop back in the oven on a 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!

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

Baked ziti on a plate with Parmesan cheese and parsley
4.94 from 147 votes
Review Recipe

Baked Ziti

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

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
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese

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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 9x13 pan. Layer half of the ziti in the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan. 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.

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.)

Keyword baked ziti
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 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
About the author

Holly

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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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Recipe Rating




Comments

  1. Made this last week and froze some. It was delicious both times! This is by far the best Zita recipe I’ve made. I pretty much followed the recipe but did use maybe about 1 cup or so more of the sauce. I also used 1 lb. of Italian Sausage and 1 lb. of ground beef (that probably explains why I needed the extra sauce…lol). Any way, this is definitely a keeper. We loved it! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!5 stars

  2. Made this yesterday! I didn’t have sausage so I used ground beef. Came out very good., only downfall was a little dry on top. I just sprinkled water on it as it was baking. The ricotta I add egg, and mozzarella/breadcrumbs. pepper. Mixed up some of the Sauce/meat mixture into the ziti before placing in pan. Delicious4 stars

  3. This is my second try with this recipe. My wife and I both love it. I use chicken sausage instead of pork sausage just to make it a bit more heart friendly ( I’m an old dude ! ) This has turned out perfect on both occasions I have made it with lots of leftovers for us. It’s even better the next day. I’m not sure why folks are running out of sauce. I had more than enough. Oh, and one more thing. I forgot to buy eggs today, so in the Ricotta cheese mixture I just substituted a table spoon of milk for the missing egg to help with mixing the cheese. This seemed to work out fine. Thank you for this recipe. I’m sure we will keep making it.5 stars

  4. My vegetarian family loved this dish; I used Beyond Meat Italian Sausage and followed the rest of the recipe exactly. Thanks!5 stars

  5. I made this following recipe and directions. The finished dish did not have any sauce. Just the pasta and some cheese (not much) were left. Is it supposed to turn out that way? The picture looked like there was still a lot of sauce when it was finished baking. The directions said to simmer sauce until it starts to thicken. That’s exactly what I did. End result was dry, no sauce pasta with a little cheese through out.

    1. Oh no, how disappointing! I have made this countless times and haven’t found it to be dry, it’s quite saucy. Was your pasta cooked al dente (quite firm)? Did you use 16oz of dry pasta? Did you bake at 375°F for 25 minutes (overbaking can cause the pasta to dry out)?

  6. Way too dry. I made this for Thanksgiving and my husband hated it. My son didn’t like it either. I made it according to directions. It needs more gravy. And probably, the ziti needs to be mixed in with the ricotta cheese mixture. My husband said it’s not my fault, but I take these things personally.2 stars

    1. I’m very surprised to hear that you found it dry Susanne. As you can see from the images, this is more saucy than dry. Perhaps your sauce reduced a little too much? While we don’t mix in the ricotta, that would work if you prefer. Thank you so much for trying the recipe.

    1. I found this to be true also what I did was add extra sauce I also use Hot sausage gives it more of a kick very tasty my family loves it now not so much the first time

  7. Hello,I made this real easy dish and my music friends loved it. Real delicious Thankyou for your recipe.joey

  8. This came out beautifully! I baked it at 350, and let it bake the last 10 minutes with a foil tent, so that it wouldn’t burn. I used sweet Italian sausage that I took out of its casings, and I think it’s a great recipe for baked ziti! It came out so pretty, too. I will be making this again for sure. ✨5 stars

  9. Easy and delicious! I love how fast this was to get on the table, and my little one really enjoyed it! Thank you!5 stars

  10. So easy to make & DELICIOUS! Thank you for giving me a new Italian dish to feed my family! Kinda like a cross between lasagne & ziti – like a ziti casserole! Try it – you’ll love it!!!5 stars

  11. Absolutely delicious! My son wants to take the leftovers to school for lunch, which is rare— especially considering he’s not a pasta lover. My husband said this ziti is now his birthday meal choice. Thank you for a super recipe!

    1. Yum! Excellent flavors. Question—my ziti came out a bit watery…any suggestions? I almost feel like I used too much cheese filling!4 stars

      1. So glad you enjoyed the flavor Carla.

        If you’d like to thicken it a little bit you could simmer the sauce a bit longer. The cheese is just under 2 cups of ricotta and the egg should help thicken it up however, I haven’t had trouble with it being runny so I can’t say for sure why it was runny. Did it rest a little bit before serving? It will thicken a little upon cooling as well. I hope that helps!

      2. Hi Carla,
        Did you drain the Ziti good? I usually take a spoon and stir it up a bit in colander and shake the colander because of the long shape of the pasta noodle/
        Also, if sauce seems a bit thin I will add a tablespoon or sometimes two of tomatoe paste to sauce to thicken it a bit. I buy a tube of paste (ALESSI is the brand they carry where I shop) and it comes in handy to sightly thicken sauce.

  12. Okay, I hate it when people post that they followed a recipe to the letter except for this and that, oh, and another thing. Like, it’s not the recipe anymore, right? Well, I had to improvise with this one out of necessity. I didn’t brown meat (vegetarian), just the onion. Also, I used cream cheese instead of ricotta (didn’t have ricotta) and vegan mozzarella (didn’t have real). I didn’t have fresh parsley, so I threw in some dried. Otherwise, it was mostly to the letter (haha). BUT honestly? I would have had no idea how to even start, and I also wanted anyone who thinks they can’t make this because they don’t have let ingredients to know that they can. I totally expected it to be inedible, but it was seriously really good.5 stars