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 245 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
Or to leave a comment, click here!

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.
4.96 from 245 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
Or to leave a comment, click here!

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. I’m making this tomorrow and I noticed my box of ziti noodles is now 12 ounces not 16. Will that make a difference with the amount of sauce? Geeze now the pasta boxes are smaller

    1. It will affect the ratio of sauce to noodles but you can enjoy an extra sauce-y ziti or reduce the pasta sauce slightly to accommodate.

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

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

  6. 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)?

  7. 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

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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. 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