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Baked Ziti makes a quick and easy dinner any night of the week. This classic Italian American pasta bake combines ziti noodles, pasta sauce, and lots of cheese into a delightfully saucy, cheesy dinner that requires just 30 minutes of prep.
Easy Baked Ziti Recipe
When it comes to pasta dinners, you can’t get much easier than this Baked Ziti recipe! It’s quick and easy to prepare but loaded with so much flavor, from the seasoned marinara to the three types of cheese. Combine the ingredients together, top with cheese, and bake. Easy peasy.
I love to make this Baked Ziti when I’m craving lasagna but am not up for all of the work. After all, it has all of the same flavors and many of the same ingredients!
What is Baked Ziti?
Baked Ziti is a classic Italian-American pasta bake. It’s similar to lasagna but instead of layering the ingredients, they are all mixed together. There are many variations to baked ziti but the one thing they all have in common is ziti pasta, marinara or pasta sauce, and lots of cheese, usually including ricotta cheese and a few types of shredded cheese.
All the ingredients are then baked to cheesy, gooey perfection.
Here are the main ingredients you’ll need for this easy pasta bake.
- Ziti pasta – Use cooked pasta in this recipe. While ziti should technically be used for baked ziti, if you don’t have any on hand other short pasta can be substituted.
- Marinara sauce – The base to the sauce of the pasta bake. It’s seasoned with garlic, Italian seasoning, and other spices to make a robust, flavorful pasta sauce.
- Ricotta cheese – Adds a creamy texture and a bit of a tang to the sauce.
- Cheese – I use shredded mozzarella and a bit of parmesan cheese, though other types of cheese like provolone can be used as well. I recommend freshly grated cheese – especially in the case of the parmesan.
- Basil – An optional garnish to finish off the dish.
Pro Tip: Add Protein To Make It Extra Filling!
While I kept this a vegetarian baked ziti recipe, you can easily add in your favorite protein to make this an even more filling meal! Diced or shredded chicken, Italian sausage, and ground beef (or even ground turkey) all make great options. Just be sure to cook the protein before adding it to the dish.
How to Make Baked Ziti
This easy baked ziti recipe comes together in a few easy steps.
Step 1: Cook the pasta. Cook the ziti noodles to al dente. Drain, then return to the pot.
Step 2: Prepare the sauce. At the same time, prepare the sauce by sauteing the garlic. Add in the marinara and seasonings. Cook for a few minutes, stirring to incorporate the flavors.
Step 3: Make the ricotta mixture. Mix together the ricotta and egg.
Step 4: Assemble the ingredients. Add the ricotta mixture to the cooked pasta. Add in the pasta sauce and half of both kinds of cheese. Mix well.
Step 5: Bake. Cover and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until bubbly. Turn the oven to broil, uncover, and broil until the top browns. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Tips & Variations
Here are a few tips to help ensure you make the best baked ziti recipe every time!
- Don’t overcook the pasta. Be sure to cook the pasta to al dente only – otherwise, it can become mushy when baked.
- Add in some veggies. If desired, you can easily load this recipe up with veggies in the sauce. Think zucchini, peppers, onions, and even spinach. Note that some may need to be pre-cooked and/or sauteed with the garlic to cook thoroughly.
- Try it with sour cream. One common variation to baked ziti is using sour cream instead of ricotta cheese. It has a smoother texture and adds a bit more tang. You can do 50/50 or replace all of the ricotta with it.
What To Serve with Baked Ziti
Baked ziti can be served on its own, maybe with a side of garlic bread or crusty bread to ensure you get every bite of the tasty sauce. Or you can add a side dish or two, like a fresh side salad or caesar salad or even a vegetable (like green beans) for a larger meal.
Can I Make This Ahead of Time?
Baked ziti makes a great make-ahead dish. You can prepare it as instructed, transfer it to the baking pan, and then cover it tightly with foil. Refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to bake. It can stay in the fridge for about 2 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Add the cheese topping right before baking.
How to Store & Reheat Leftovers
Store any leftover baked ziti in an airtight container for up to 4 days. If reheating the entire casserole dish, you can pop it back in the oven at 350 until it’s warmed through. Cover with foil to prevent the cheese from burning.
Smaller amounts of baked ziti can easily be reheated in the microwave in just a minute or two.
More Easy Dinner Recipes:
- Lemon Chicken Stirfry
- Baked Chicken Taquitos
- Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
- Homemade Sloppy Joes
- Ham and Cheese Sliders
Baked Ziti makes a quick and easy dinner any night of the week. This classic Italian American pasta bake combines ziti noodles, pasta sauce, and lots of cheese into a delightfully saucy, cheesy dinner that requires just minutes of prep.
1 box (16oz) Ziti pasta, cooked
For the Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 jar (24oz) marinara sauce
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
For the Filling
2 cups (16oz) Ricotta Cheese
1 large egg, beaten
3 cups (12 oz) Shredded mozzarella cheese
5 oz shredded parmesan cheese
Fresh Basil for garnish (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a 9×13 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the ziti noodles. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the noodles are cooked al-dente. When cooked, drain into a strainer, and put back in the pot.
- While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil then add the garlic and cook until it’s starts to brown. Then add the marinara sauce and seasonings. Stir until combine and cook for just a couple minutes to incorporate the flavors. Set aside.
- In a bowl, mix together the ricotta and the egg until combined.
- To the cooked pasta, add the ricotta mixture and stir until combined. Then add the marinara sauce, half the mozzarella and half the parmesan cheese and stir until it’s well mixed. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Cover the top with remaining shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375°F for 30 to 35 minutes until bubbly. Remove from the oven and set the oven to broil. Once heated, return the lasagna to the oven, uncovered and boil for a couple minutes until the top starts to brown. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil.
- To prepare ahead of time: Prepare it as instructed, transfer it to the baking pan, and then cover it tightly with foil. Refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to bake. It can stay in the fridge for about 2 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Add the cheese topping right before baking.
- Storing leftovers: Store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days. If reheating the entire casserole dish, you can pop it back in the oven at 350 until it’s warmed through. Cover with foil to prevent the cheese from burning. Smaller amounts of baked ziti can easily be reheated in the microwave in just a minute or two.
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: easy baked ziti, baked ziti with ricotta, best baked ziti recipe