Baked Ziti

A classic Italian American comfort food of pasta baked with sausage, tomato sauce and all kinds of gooey, yummy cheeses.

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.

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

1 Bring a large pot of water to a strong boil. Add about a tablespoon of salt for every 2 quarts of water. Add the pasta and boil, uncovered, until the pasta is al dente—edible but still a little firm. Drain the pasta through a colander. Toss with a little olive oil so the pasta does not stick together while you make the sauce.

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2 Pour a tablespoon or so of olive oil into a large sauté pan on medium-high to heat. When the oil is hot, add the bulk sausage or ground meat. Do not crowd the pan (work in batches if needed). 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, add a little salt.

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3 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. 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 in some sauce with the pasta, mix it well and add the pasta into the casserole.

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5 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. Bake in the oven until the top is nicely browned, about 20 minutes.

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Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

    Thanks!

    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

  5. 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!
    oxox

  6. 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.

  7. Syd

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

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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!

  12. Amy R

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

  13. Lulu

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

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. 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! :)

  17. 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!

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. Sarah

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

  24. 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!

  25. 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!

  26. 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!

  27. 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!

  28. Jodi

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

  29. 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.

  30. Debbie

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

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. Ameirah

    Nostalgia! I love this, reminds me of my childhood. The ultimate comfort food in my opinion.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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

  38. 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!

  39. 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!

  40. Sarah

    This was great my family loved it thanks!

  41. 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).

  42. Kim

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

  43. 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!

  44. Kim

    Wondering what brand of marinara you typically use?

  45. 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!

  46. 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.