Best Ever Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti is a savory, cheesy Italian classic that is worthy of dinner parties or a quick weeknight meal! Just make sure to make a big batch because it’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser! 

You will love this tasty, quick and easy baked ziti recipe! I mean what is better than noodles covered in a rich spaghetti sauce and ooey-gooey cheeses? And if you love this meal I suggest you also try our easy baked ravioli or our delicious lasagna soup.

Baked ziti recipe

An Italian Classic

I love Italian food, especially lasagna, but sometimes the noodles are difficult to work with or I feel like it needs a little more noodle to it! That is why I love Baked Ziti! It is a classic Italian American dish and you get a substantial amount of noodles, along with savory sauce and melted cheese!

You can really use any medium-size noodle, ziti, rigatoni, penne or farfalle. You just want a shape that can hold some sauce and cheese!! It is a fast and simple meal to throw together on a busy night! 

Ziti meat sauce in skillet

How to Make Baked Ziti

The Sauce

I love to make my own homemade sauce, but sometimes when I am in a time crunch I use my favorite jar of store-bought spaghetti sauce! Luckily for me, my homemade sauce isn’t difficult or contains crazy ingredients!

Begin by sauteing onion, celery, and carrots until soft. Continue by adding garlic and then your beef, making sure to break the beef into small pieces as you cook it up! 

Then add in the red wine and cook for 1 minute. Finally, add in the tomato paste and marinara and let it simmer on low while you cook your pasta! 

Layer It

After you have cooked and drained your pasta begin the layering process! Place half of your noodles in your baking dish, add half of your sauce and then half of your cheese mixture. Repeat and you are finished!! See it is so simple!! 

Bake it, covered with foil, at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for an additional 15 minutes! 

Let it cool for about 10-15 minutes before garnishing with parsley and serving!

Ziti layered in casserole dish

Additions + Variations

I love this recipe because it is so versatile! Like swapping out ground beef for the sweet flavor of sausage or omitting meat altogether and making this meal vegetarian! Use what you have on hand or what you prefer!!

Here are just a few suggestions for additions/variations: 

  • ricotta
  • cottage cheese
  • sour cream
  • Sausage
  • chicken
  • ground beef
  • cauliflower instead of noodles
  • spinach

 

Baked Ziti in baking dish

Storing, Reheating, Sides + More

This recipe is great for making ahead of time! Once assembled you can keep it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Quick not-if you are putting it in the oven directly from the fridge you might want to add another 5 minutes. 

Or make it ahead of time and freeze for a future date! Freeze this prepared meal in a tightly sealed dish for up to a month. Leave it in the fridge the night before to thaw and then bake according to the instructions.

And this recipe is great if you like leftovers! Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to a week and reheat it in the microwave until warmed through. 

What to serve with it? 

Baked Ziti recipe on white plate

For more pasta dishes, check out:

Baked Ziti Recipe

Baked Ziti is a savory, cheesy Italian classic that is worthy of dinner parties or a quick weeknight meal! Just make sure to make a big batch because it's sure to be a crowd-pleaser!
5 from 9 votes
Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 45 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 30 mins
Servings: 6
Calories: 681kcal
Author: Natalie
Print Recipe

Ingredients

For the sauce:
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion - diced
  • 1 stalk celery - diced
  • 1 carrot - peeled and diced
  • 4 garlic cloves - minced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp red wine
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 24 oz. jar favorite marinara sauce
  • 12 oz dried ziti
For the cheese:
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese - whole
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese - freshly grated
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
For the topping:
  • 2 tbsp parsley - freshly chopped

Instructions

  • To make the sauce, in a large deep skillet set over medium heat, add the oil. Once hot, add the onion, celery and carrot. Saute for 3-4 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add beef, season with salt and pepper. Break beef into smaller pieces and brown, about 5 minutes.
  • Pour in red wine and let cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and marinara, mix until combine. Let simmer on low cooking the pasta.
  • Place a large stockpot filled with water over high heat. Bring to a boil. Cook ziti for 6 minutes, then drain and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium deep baking dish, add half of the pasta. Spread 1/2 of the sauce over top, then 1/2 of the cheeses over top. Add remaining pasta over, then remaining sauce. Add remaining ricotta, parmesan, and sprinkle mozzarella over top.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove foil and continue baking for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before garnishing with parsley.

Nutrition

Calories: 681kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 108mg | Sodium: 509mg | Potassium: 542mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2381IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 408mg | Iron: 3mg