Baked Ziti is a classic Italian American comfort food. It's got all the goodness of lasagna like baked pasta with tomato sauce, meat, and three cheeses, but is even easier to make! It’s gooey, cheesy, and perfect for a weeknight dinner.
Baked Ziti has very similar ingredients to lasagna, but no layering is needed to make this meal. Everything gets mixed in together in this casserole which saves so much time. There's no carefully piecing together lasagna noodles and no stress trying to spread ricotta cheese to get nice even layers.
There’s a little bit of layering action when assembling the Baked Ziti, but its main purpose is to get a nice distribution of sauce, pasta, and cheese. Then, of course, the dish is topped with more cheese which gets bubbly and browned at the end of baking. If you really want to skip layering entirely, you can mix the pasta, meat sauce, and cheese together, tossing rather than mixing and reserve a bit of the sauce and cheese for the top still.
Baked Ziti Ingredients
- Ground beef
- Spaghetti sauce
- Tomato sauce
- Ricotta cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
Baked Ziti is such a wonderfully classic dish that you can experiment quite a bit and still achieve delicious success. For example, if you don’t have or can’t find ziti pasta, substitute another short pasta like penne or mostaccioli. What you really want in the shape is for the pasta to have many places to hold sauce and meat.
You may decide to go meatless or substitute the type of meat. This recipe calls for ground beef, though Italian sausage or a combination of both would be great, too. Others may wish to forgo the tomato sauce and add more cheese instead. The herbs are another way to tailor this dish to your taste buds. Try basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, or parsley instead or in addition to the oregano. Every family can have their own spin on Baked Ziti.
How to Make Baked Ziti
FIRST STEP: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
SECOND STEP: Cook ziti and set aside.
THIRD STEP: On medium heat cook beef, onion, and garlic until beef is browned.
FOURTH STEP: Stir in sauces and oregano, and keep on heat until mixture starts to boil.
FIFTH STEP: Combine 1 cup of beef/sauce mixture with cooked ziti.
SIXTH STEP: Spoon in ½ of ziti mixture into a large baking dish.
SEVENTH STEP: Top with ricotta and 1 cup of mozzarella and 1 cup of sauce.
EIGHTH STEP: Spoon in the rest of the ziti mixture and top with the rest of the sauce.
NINTH STEP: Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
TENTH STEP: Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and remaining mozzarella.
ELEVENTH STEP: Bake uncovered for 10 minutes.
Drain the fat from the meat, but leave a little to help the dish remain moist.
Drain the pasta just before it reaches the al dente stage. Since the pasta will continue to bake in the oven, you don’t want it to be mushy.
To serve, if you want it to cut into squares nicely, it will need to set a bit first.
Easily assemble ahead of time and either refrigerate or freeze before baking. Uncooked Baked Ziti will last up to 3 days in the fridge.
If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking.
Baked Ziti can also be frozen after baked.
Storing this Recipe
Cover and refrigerate leftovers for 3-5 days.
Freeze leftovers or even make extra for another meal to freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in the oven until bubbly.
- 16 oz box of ziti
- ½ pound of ground beef
- 1 24-ounce jar of spaghetti sauce
- 8 oz can of tomato sauce
- 15 oz of ricotta cheese
- ½ cup of parmesan cheese
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 tsp of oregano
- 1 cup of mozzarella cheese +
- ½ cup of mozzarella cheese
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Cook ziti and set aside
- On medium heat cook beef, onion, and garlic until beef is browned
- Stir in sauces and oregano, and keep on heat until mixture starts to boil
- Combine 1 cup of beef/sauce mixture with cooked ziti
- Spoon in ½ of ziti mixture into a large baking dish
- Top with ricotta and 1 cup of mozzarella and 1 cup of sauce
- Spoon in the rest of the ziti mixture and top with the rest of the sauce
- Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes
- Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and remaining mozzarella
- Bake uncovered for 10 minutes