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
4.95 from 277 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, and half of the sauce.
  • Add remaining ziti, remaining sauce, and top with 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.
4.95 from 277 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

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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. Baked Ziti receipt is amazing!!!! Super easy and delicious. I make a lot of your recipes Tomorrow will be your coleslaw recipe with fresh cabbage from the local farm stand Thanks!!!5 stars

  2. This is the BEST Baked Ziti recipe I ever made. Made it last week and making it again tonight by request from my family. I am such a fan of your recipe. You are my go to site when I need dinner ideas. I belong to a Farm Share at a local farm. Getting lots of great veggies! Making your coleslaw tomorrow!!5 stars

  3. I would like to make a meatless baked ziti. Can I just omit the meat, and maybe most of the Italian seasoning?5 stars

    1. Hi Sandy, we haven’t tried making this recipe meatless but that should work. Or you could try a meat substitute.

    2. I just came across your comment and I’ve done this for a vegetarian (my brother. Will eat fish and dairy) we use veggie stock and roasted eggplant for the sauce to “beef” it up a bit. It’s incredibly versatile and frankly, as a meat eater, I really enjoy
      this version as well!

  4. For all the work that went into this “easy” ziti i was extremely disappointed in the outcome. Won’t be making this again

  5. Your recipe is a little confusing. you first say, put a cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 but immediately after that you say to put the pasta in the bottom of a greased pan. what?

  6. Excellent recipe!!! I realized I had zero mozzarella in the house after I already started, so I used Colby Jack, Grated Asiago and Parm. Also used cottage cheese with the extra egg. It was SO SO GOOD! I’m probably never making spaghetti again bc this will be my go to from now on. I did find it to be too much for my standard glass 9×13, so before I did the second layer I had to transfer it to my deeper casserole dish. No biggie, now I know 5 stars

  7. Very disappointed in the end result. I’m not sure if it was the ziti pasta, or using a glass rather than a metal pan. I would just rather use lasagna noodles1 star

    1. Oh boy Latoya, we have never had that happen before! Did you bake it in a 9×13 pan? It shouldn’t have overflown.

  8. Made tonight. No Italian sausage, so used ground beef. Excellent. All 5 of us loved it, till it was gone! Very tasty!5 stars

    1. I am going to give this a whirl tonight. I have one question do you think stewed tomatoes with store bought sauce would work?

    1. Hi Carissa, you can use store-bought if you prefer. For this recipe I would just choose your favorite marinara sauce or pasta sauce.

  9. Can you list portion size with nutrient est? Importantant coupled with carb count for type 1 diabetes vigilance. Thanks, looks great, anxious to make it.

    1. Hi Gerry, our nutrition information is just an estimate and will vary based on the ingredients you use. For the most accurate information you will want to input the brand of ingredients you are using on an app like MyFitnessPal or something similar to calculate nutrition. Hope you enjoy the recipe!

  10. BEST baked ziti recipe I’ve ever had! I was wanting to make something like this for a while, but lasagna and some other recipes can be expensive and time consuming to make. This was the best Italian cassarole-style dish I’ve ever had/made and it was easy AND affordable! I’m a huge fan, this is definitely going to become a regular dinner in my household! Thank you, Holly!5 stars