Baked Ziti

If you don't have Italian seasoning in the pantry, use 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried basil and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: Serves at least 8


  • 1 pound ziti (can sub penne) pasta
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage or ground beef or pork
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary (or basil), minced
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 large jar of marinara sauce (about 32 ounces) or make your own tomato sauce
  • 1/2 pound of mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1 heaping cup of ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese


1 Boil the pasta: Heat a large pot of water (2 quarts of water) to a strong boil. Add a tablespoon of salt. Add the pasta and cook at a rolling boil, uncovered, until the pasta is al dente—edible but still a little firm to the bite.

Drain the pasta through a colander. Toss with a little olive oil so the pasta does not stick together while you make the sauce.

2 Brown the meat: While the water is heating in the previous step, start on the sauce. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering hot, add the bulk sausage or ground meat. Break up any large chunks of sausage as it cooks. Brown well.

Don't stir that often or it will be more difficult for the meat to brown. If you are using ground beef or pork instead of sausage, sprinkle with a little salt.


3 Add onions and sauté, then add garlic, spices, then tomato sauce: When the meat is mostly browned, add the onions and stir well to combine. Sauté everything until the onions are translucent and beginning to brown, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the garlic, rosemary or basil, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Cook 1 minute, then add the tomato sauce and stir well. Bring to a simmer.

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4 Preheat the oven to 350°F.

5 Layer sauce, cheese, pasta in casserole dish: Spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a 9x13-inch casserole pan, then dot the surface with half the ricotta cheese. Ladle a spoonful of sauce into the pasta, stir it well and then add the pasta into the casserole.

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Pour the rest of the sauce over the pasta, dot the remaining ricotta cheese over the pasta, and sprinkle on top both the mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese.

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6 Bake 20 min: Bake in oven at 350°F until the top is lightly browned and the cheese melted, about 20 minutes.

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  • Patty Banfi

    My son is taking this back to college. Which is 5 hours away. Should I cook it then freeze it for him to take. Or just make it don’t cook it, freeze it and have him cook it when he gets to school. Ty

  • Mrs Monica Azzopardi

    I sent a comment about a week or so, in regards of the nutrients in each receipy , unfortunately I’ve to count everything, your dishes look so beautiful so delicious, also very healthy,. Is it possible that you will start marking calories and so forth in the future, please let me know. Kind regards Monica azzopardi

  • Geofrey

    Love pasta and I love this recipe very delicious thanks for the recipe

  • Debbie Aiello

    I made this baked ziti recipe for an Italian friend of mine who is VERY fussy and he loved it!!! All that I thought it needed was another qt. of gravy and it was perfect. Thank you so much for a great and easy delicious alternative to lasagna for dinner…

  • Carol H

    I made this dish last night the only thing I did differently was leave out the red pepper places because my boyfriend and I don’t really like anything spicy and I didn’t have parsley but I really liked this recipe it was easy and fun to make and the other thing I did differently was I followed someone else’s comment about putting the dish under the broiler for about 2 minutes because I originally put the dish in for 20 minutes and the dish was not browning but over all a great recipe !!

  • Erv Crain

    I stopped boiling lasagna noodles years ago! And I don’t soak them, either. During assembly, layer dry noodles in the pan as usual and cover with sauce, cheese, etc. After baking, the noodles and the lasagna are perfect. Forget boiling lasagna noodles!

  • Sharon

    There is a type of pasta now that does not need to be boiled first; it’s cooked with the casserole. Would you know how I might want to increase the sauce if I were to try it this way?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Sharon, I do not, but sounds like a great idea. If you experiment with the no-boil pasta, please let us know how it turns out for you!

  • Cynthia Ahmar

    I accidentally bought pennine instead of penne, and I know that 1 pound equals approximately 3 cups of dried penne pasta. I was just wondering: if I use pennine instead, will I also measure out 3 cups of the dried pasta? Also, will it hold as well as penne or is it too small?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Cynthia, a pound of pennine is probably a little less volume-wise than a pound of penne, but probably not enough to make a difference. I haven’t made the ziti with pennine, but I’m guessing it should work fine.

      • Cynthia Ahmar

        Tried it, it was fine and tasted really great! I used the homemade tomato sauce recipe that you linked, and it tasted amazing, so much more flavor than a bland tomato sauce! Everyone loved this recipe, will be making it again.

  • Pam

    This recipe is perfect!! I’ve made it several times and it’s now my go to recipe when we want Italian. Thanks for all the work that went into your post.

  • troy

    hi Elise i am wondering on a bake time if i refrigerate it before baking and should i cover it during cooking

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Troy, everything is already cooked so all you are really doing is heating the casserole enough so that the cheese gets melted and browned on top and the dish is heated through. So, you might need to cook it a couple minutes longer if it starts out chilled from the refrigerator. And you do not need to cover it (if you do, the cheese will not brown).

  • Cynthia

    I don’t care for the taste of Ricotta cheese, is it ok to exclude it completely without substitutes or would the texture be affected?

  • gisela

    I was wondering if the bake time was incorrect at 20 minutes? Other ziti recipes bake for close to an hour.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hello Gisela, the timing is correct. Everything is already cooked before you assemble. All you are trying to do is cook it enough in the oven to melt the cheese.

  • One Armed Bandit

    This recipe is good. Being disabled one handed cook who loves to cook. Your recipe was so easy to do. My wife works and I stay home. She loves this meal. I added some garlic bread salad and boom major dinner. Thanks for showing me how.

  • Fork Lift Operator

    Manicotti is even easier to make. Mix some ricotta with egg and parsley. Roll it up in some lasagna pasta sheets, cover with tomato sauce, mozzarella and bake. Broccoli florets and glazed honey and cinnamon baby carrots on the side. Drop one into a hot dog bun for a man-dog. Maybe even mix some browned and chopped Italian sausage into the ricotta? We have the technology!
    Time to dust off the pasta sheeter?

  • Giavanna Lochetto

    This recipe was delicious! I went ahead and added more ricotta cheese! Definitely making this again.

  • Sharon Baxter

    Love,Love, Love your recipes!! I’m a 62 year old Gammie of two grandsons and these boys can “put it away”! They don’t like some of the ” old timey” meals I served to theirGrandpa, Dad and Aunt.So I’ve been researching recipes just for them.. And they love them!! Thanks so much, Sharon

  • Brooke

    Never have a ton of time to cook, but have gradually been doing it more often now… Just followed your recipe last night, and am eating it for lunch now. What a keeper! Thank you!

  • George

    New to this cooking thing. Do I bake this covered or uncovered?
    So sorry but I don’t want to mess this up. Thanks!

    • Elise

      Hi George, bake it uncovered. That way the top will get a bit browned.

      • Fork Lift Operator

        You can bake covered until the last…say…half hour. When I do lasagna…and pizza…I will turn on the broiler for about 5 minutes at the end to get slightly browned and chewy mozzarella on top.

  • T

    Just made this today turned out great. Didn’t have Rosemary or basil so I put a little more Italian seasoning in and it worked out perfectly.

  • Beth

    This looks great. One question, please–are you referring to store bought ricotta and which kind of mozzarella? I usually purchase fresh mozzarella and make my own ricotta. Would those be too watery? Yes, I realize that is more than one question so thank you in advance. I love all of your recipes!

    • Elise

      Hi Beth, we are using store-bought full fat ricotta and store-bought firm mozzarella (not the fresh).

  • Jenny C

    I have to re-post another comment about this great recipe. Elise, I have made this so many times now that I don’t even need to look at your instructions. :) I just made another batch today from memory and it’s just as good as the first time I have made it. Thank you again for such a great recipe. Happy Holiday to you and your family. ~Jenny

    • Elise

      Thanks so much Jenny, happy holidays to you and yours as well!

  • Sara L

    This was really good. I found that 1 jar of sauce wasn’t enough. I wound up opening a second jar of sauce to finish the ziti once I’d used up the meat sauce. Next time I’ll just add part of a second jar to the meat to make the sauce .

  • Rich

    Love Italian food, but after stomach surgery cannot tolerate tomato based sauces. I have recently been introduce to white sauces, like Alfredo. Can I substitute Alfredo sauce for the tomato sauce? I dearly miss Italian food, but not enough to put up with the stomach pain from tomato sauce (I guess its the acid in the tomatoes which bother me).

    • Elise

      Hi Rich, great idea! I might try that myself. So sorry you are having to endure pain from tomato sauces. That happened to me for a while years ago and it wasn’t fun at all.

      • Fork Lift Operator

        I routinely swap out tomato sauces for alfredo. Think about doing a 50/50 mix of parmesan and bread crumbs as a topping. Tomato sauce, without the extra sugar, is healthier for most people than alfredo.

        Chicken noodle casserole, turkey tetrazzini, and tuna casserole are all pretty much the same. Besides than excluding the beef and tomato sauce, the others will typically add a veggie like peas or carrots. You also leave the pasta out altogether and ladle the glop over biscuits for your daily dose of empty carbs.

  • Stephanie

    What a great recipe! So easy to follow the steps with pictures. My husband does NOT cook and I just challenged him to make this and he did the entire thing from start to finish. He’s currently cleaning up the dishes from cooking. Looks amazing and we can’t wait to eat it!!

  • donutty

    Elise, have you tried making it without boiling the pasta first and adding water to the sauce before baking instead? Thanks.

    • Elise

      Hi Donutty, like how they do it at Serious Eats? No, not yet. If you do, please let me know how it turns out for you.

      • donutty

        I read about the Serious Eats method (soaking pasta in hot water for half hour before mixing with sauce and baking), but wasn’t able to try it last night because I was short on time. I tried a different way I read about online–to add water to the sauce mixture and then stirring the dry pasta into that before baking–but I will not try that method again. The pasta on top was crunchy, even with the top covered with foil, and the pasta on the bottom was mushy. When I try the Serious Eats method, I’ll let you know! Thanks for the reply.

        • Fork Lift Operator

          Over there, they are busy coming up with answers for questions that nobody is asking. I spent a considerable amount of time following their advice for duplicating Mickey D’s French fries. In the end I decided the whole exercise was obsessive and silly. I just soak the fries in cold water overnight. If I am feeling like the Lord Of The Fries I’ll blanch the fries first but that’s about it.

          With all that proverbial water under the bridge, I will often add some water to the cooked pasta before the bake. The pasta will soak it up but you will lose the Il Dente texture.

          If you want the Il Dente texture, cook the pasta and goopy glop separately and combine later.

          The plating looks much nicer when the sauce is ladled over the pasta with some toasted and buttered garlic bread on the side.

  • Carol

    This sounds MUCH easier, and just as good or even better, than doing lasagna for a family reunion that I’m planning for October! I have three (3) large pans (12×16) and one (1) 9×13 pan. Do you think these 4 pans will feed 44 people? I also plan to serve garlic bread and a salad. Also, is it ok to freeze them a month before the reunion? If so, should I assemble them and throw them in the freezer OR should I bake them first BEFORE I freeze them? When it comes time to serve them. Do I thaw them first? Thanks for this awesome recipe! Can’t wait to try it.

    • Elise

      Hi Carol,
      What a great idea for a family reunion! I think the pans as you described will be sufficient for 44 people, along with the garlic bread. You can easily make them a month ahead and freeze. I would assemble, not bake, and wrap first with plastic wrap then with aluminum foil. Then defrost for a couple hours before baking.

  • Mesha

    Just made this for the first time for my family. They really enjoyed it. I’m really happy that I used the recipe from this site.

  • Alan Winn

    I tried this recipe for the first time yesterday for Mother’s Day, and it was a HUGE hit. I added about a half cup additional cheese on the top, but that was the only modification. Thank you very much for a wonderful recipe that generated an incredibly tasty dish — already an instant family favorite!!

  • Karen @ On the Banks of Salt Creek

    We love baked ziti.
    I make it for my youngest’s birthday every year because we have so many people over for the party. I make a double batch in my huge 9,5 quart dutch oven. It is a beast to pull out of the oven but everyone loves it.

  • Jenny

    I LOVED this dish… Simple to make, the spice was perfect and the ricotta added a wonderful creamy flavor that cooled things down just a bit. I served with a salad and garlic bread. Will make this dish again and again and again! Thank you for this recipe….

  • Sue

    In step four, you say to ladle some sauce into the ziti and mix well. How much sauce would you say should be mixed into the pasta? A ladle? Two ladles?

    • Alan Winn

      I used one ladle, and it worked fine. I think it’s only so that you’re not spreading around “dry” noodles — there’s a small amount of sauce in there to help break up any sticky noodles. I hope that helps! :)

  • jennifer

    A wonderful recipe. I tried one from another cookbook that came out too
    salty and took too long. This was easy, quick and delicious.

  • Tanya

    Great taste a keeper.

  • Tanya

    I made this tonight for dinner and my mother and we had to control ourselves to keep from going back! Oh this is definitely on the recipe file! A keeper!

  • Shelley

    Loved the recipe! I din’t have the thyme or the ricotta cheese,and it was still delicious! Not one complaint. Thanks for posting this recipe.

  • Karyn

    I made it tonight for dinner, and it was delicious!! (As is everything I’ve ever made from your recipes!). I left out the red pepper flakes after a comment about how spicy it was, and I used mild Italian sausage. This will definitely become a regular dish for our family!

  • Kim

    Wondering what brand of marinara you typically use?

    • Elise

      If we’re not making our own sauce, then sometimes I get Newman’s Own.

    • Alan Winn

      I used Wild Oats Organic Marinara Pasta Sauce, and it tasted great.

  • Andrea

    I slightly overcooked the pasta on accident, so it wasn’t “al dente” like it was supposed to be but it still turned out amazing. I followed the recipe exactly, and my boyfriend said it was the best meal i’d ever cooked. 5 stars!

  • Kim

    Made this tonight and it was delicious. Makes a TON. Leftovers will be divine.

  • Lynne

    Can this be assembled, then held before baking? And if yes, for how long can you hold it? I wouldn’t have time to freeze and defrost. thanks!

    • Elise

      Yes, everything is already cooked. It will keep several days in the fridge (covered).

  • Sarah

    This was great my family loved it thanks!

  • BAL

    This was just delicious. I make several italian type dishes but this was really yummy, especially the next day when I took leftovers to work! I used a 13.25oz box of Dreamfield pasta and 4 mild turkey italian sausages, left out the red pepper flakes and shredded a small zucchini. Other than that, I followed the directions exactly. thanks for the great recipe!

  • PM

    Thank you so much for this recipe! This dish is just fantastic. The only changes I made were to use ground turkey, whole wheat penne pasta, and to add some green and yellow bell peppers with the onion. I also added a little extra red pepper flakes since my husband and I love spicy food. I look forward to trying more new recipes from you!

  • JJ

    Can this be frozen two weeks ahead of time, and if so at what point can it be frozen?

    Yes you can freeze this a couple of weeks ahead of time, probably even a couple of months. I would cook first, then freeze, then reheat when you wanted to eat it. ~Elise

  • Allison

    Made this tonight and it was a hit!! Next time, I am going to add an extra layer of cheeses between meat sauce and noodles. Definitely doing it again.

  • MJ

    This recipe struck me as a grown up version of something my Canadian mother used to make, she called it ‘beeferoni’. I think there was a song involved – ‘hooray for beeferoni’ it went. Anyway, this was divine and ‘baked ziti’ sounds much more sophisticated than beeferoni.

    I started my sauce with a soffrito of celery, onion and carrot, and later added mushrooms to boost the vege content. Also served with steamed broccoli on the side. The ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan topping was the star of the show.

  • Brigitte

    First time I came across this dish was watching “The Sopranos”, where casseroles of Ziti were practically exchanged between the families. In Germany, unfortunately, we don’t get ziti pasta and Italian sausage.

    So, when I tried your recipe last week, I replaced the pasta with penne and mixed ground beef with chunks of the Spanish chorizo sausage, which added some spice. I also put some fresh red peppers in it. I loved it! Thank you so much – I will definitely prepare it again.

  • Beth McManus

    I never had baked ziti, and yours looked so good, I made it. When I openned the oven door I actually squeeled with delight because it looked so beautiful! I can’t think of the last time I squeeled. My husband came running. He thought I hurt myself or saw a mouse or some other terrible thing. Thank you for your fabulous website. You are going a long way to keeping us well fed.

  • Charles

    Great recipe. Used Johnsonville sweet italian sausage. Add 1/2 tbs fennel really gives it that italian flavor. Use Zia’s pasta sauce. People from St. Louis and the hill know what I am talking about. Family loved it.

  • Debbie

    Anyone have suggestions for what to replace ricotta with for a dairy intolerant child?

  • Dana

    This was amazing!!!!!! I used a whole container of ricotta and cooked it for 25 mins c I like it to be nice and golden on top.

  • Jodi

    In a word, YUM! This was so good and made a lot of leftovers (which were also delicious). Thank you for the recipe!

  • Penny

    Made this on Christmas Day and had enough leftovers for an army, which I can now report froze nicely in ziplock bags and reheated to near perfection in the microwave. There is nothing like home-made fast food!

  • Amanda

    I made this a second time and added some sliced cremeni mushrooms to your tomato sauce recipe a little before the carrots and onions were cooked and then added the garlic once the mushrooms cooked down a bit. I still haven’t added celery to the sauce and it has been good without it and doesn’t seem like it’s missing anything when celery isn’t included.

    I also added a little more red pepper flakes and only 1 tsp of the Italian seasoning since I was using Italian sausage with lots of flavor already. I love it and it’s a great easy dish that gives us a few meals to eat on during the week. Thank you for sharing!

  • Lei

    I made this recipe for my anniversary last week and it was a huge hit. My husband would not eat anything else for three whole days until the last of it was gone. Thanks for an awesome recipe!

  • Darlene

    Made this for my sons 16th birthday party, whith his favorite andouille sausage, and the kids destroyed the whole pan!! Thank you so much!

  • Sarah

    Made this for dinner with vegetarian sausage and it was to die for!

  • Catherine Morell

    For you vegetarians out there who want more protein….I added a 12 oz. package of soy chorizo (sp?) that I bought from Trader Joes. I have seen them in Super Walmart now. My daughters ate it up!

  • Laurie

    I made this for dinner tonight. Everyone loved it but me. It was very good, but it was just too spicy for me. I think it was the red pepper flakes because I used the mild Italian sausage. Next time I will cut the red pepper flakes in half.

    The only changes made were 1) no fresh herb added and 2) penne pasta was used instead of ziti.

  • Jenny

    Loved it! I have tons of leftovers. I couldn’t find any ziti so I used penne instead. I made it with ground beef but next time I think I’ll do a combination of ground beef and sausage. Twenty minutes in the oven was perfect! Thanks for recipe! I will definitely be making this again and again.

  • LaWanda

    Well, I went through with my plans to make this recipe for dinner. Although it was quick and easy, something did not go right. It turned out a bit dry and the ricotta cheese was exactly where I “dotted” it. Was I suppose to spread it around? Also, with the exception of the sauce, I doubled everything (maybe that is where I went wrong). Either way, it tasted great. I served it with a side salad of iceberg lettuce and garlic rolls. My husband gobbled it up. My son, the picky eater that he is, would not go near it.

  • Leigh

    Tried your recipe last night & it was delicious! The best baked ziti I have ever made. So glad to now have this in my recipe file. Thanks!

  • Kristen

    I made this for dinner last night and it was quick, easy, and delicious! I couldn’t find ziti so I decided to try a new product I found, Ronzoni Garden Delight Penne, there is a full serving of veggies in every 4 oz. portion. Then to try to sneak in even more veggies I bought a pasta sauce with veggies in it. I figured with all the cheese I was going to heap on I better fit something healthy in somewhere! The dish turned out perfect, thanks for sharing!

  • Lisa

    This is one of our favorites! I make this at least twice a month in two batches…one we eat and one we freeze to take to our son and his family later in the week. I omit the red pepper flakes and add some grated cheddar along with the Italian cheeses. I only use ground beef for the meat, and I always have plenty of basil (fresh frozen) for the sauce. Even my 16 month old granddaughter loves this dish! :)

  • Karina

    Baked ziti is one of my favorite comfort foods. Perfect for the holidays. Gotta love a no-fuss meal you can make ahead and throw in the oven. I’ll be making this soon- with brown rice penne. Thanks for reminding me of this classic dish!

  • Elaine

    This looks wonderful. It would be great to make enough for two casseroles – one to eat and one to freeze for later. A perfect dish to have on hand during these busy holiday evenings.

  • Lulu

    mmmmmmmm…I love baked ziti. So easy and satisfying. I like making mine with sausage too, and mushrooms or eggplant. Delish!

  • Amy R

    This sounds wonderful! I love ricotta. The ziti I normally make uses bechamel sauce, which is also divine!

  • Tempy

    I love Making Ziti bakes. An aquaintance of ours loves to hunt deer during the season and we all usually end up with more venison than we can handle. I usually get mine like ground beef and use it in everything. The venison version comes out great. I let the meat soak in milk over night though, to kill some of the wild flavor, and use plenty of cheese, with italian seasonings. I also add chopped green hot pepers to the sauce. Here we likes our food spicy!

  • Charlotte

    This is very similar to my baked ziti recipe, but instead of mozzarella and ricotta cheese, I toss 1 lb. of shredded havarti with the noodles and sauce. Creamy, gooey, wonderful!

  • Ashley Kosher

    This looks and sounds really yummy! My family recently made a version of a baked ziti with elk meat. I was a bit nervous but it ended up tasting really great.

  • Maris

    This looks so good! When I was a kid, baked ziti was always my favorite thing to order from Italian restaurants.

    Thanks for mentioning my butternut squash baked ziti!

  • Syd

    In the interest of fairness, I got my recipe off of the Allrecipes website.

  • Syd

    For some odd reason, I made my first pan of ziti only 2 years ago at the request of my, then, 17 year old daughter. I don’t even know that I had eaten it before! And I LOVE Italian food. Anyway, since then, it’s become pretty much the family favorite. My recipe is only very slightly different from yours. I mix sour cream into the ricotta and add a layer of provolone cheese slices. For assembling, I mix half the sauce with all of the pasta. Then, half pasta into dish, all of the ricotta, all the provolone, the rest of the pasta, then the other half of the sauce. Top with mozzarella and some parmesan. Bake, eat, yum.

  • Stephanie O'Dea

    Your ziti looks marvelous. Thank you for linking to my crockpot ziti—
    I love how you incorporated 3 different cheeses. You can never have too much cheese!

  • Liv

    This looks great! Quick question – if I freeze this before baking, can I just bake it frozen? Or do I have to thaw it in the refrigerator before baking?


    I would put the frozen casserole into a cold oven and heat up the oven and then cook until it is heated through and the cheese is melted. ~Elise

  • Susan

    I love this dish, it’s real comfort food. I add veg’s to mine while cooking the onions. I’ve added chopped zucchini, or peas, or Romano beans (called Italian beans sometimes), chopped spinach. This is one of those good, flexible casseroles where you can get a little creative.

  • Anna

    Much like April’s post – this is one of my go to dishes for taking to a new mom. Almost everyone likes it, good calcium (I make it with extra ricotta), no long strings of spaghetti, makes a ton, freezes, reheats, etc. I prefer penne because it’s thicker and has the great ridges.

  • April

    Ahh, yes! The baked ziti. This was a popular meal for friends to bring whenever I had one of my 3 children. A great meal, easy to throw together and the leftovers reheat fantastically. I’m interested in your souped up version, though. Looks to be much more flavorful than the one I make. Hello red pepper flakes! Guess I know what’s going on next week’s menu planning! Thanks for posting this recipe!