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
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage or ground beef or pork
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (or basil), minced
  • 1 tablespoon 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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  • Jeff

    I know how to make ziti. I just wanted to see what the oven time was. Iread this recipe and decided to try it. It’s basically word for word the same way that I make baked ziti and you can’t lose with this. It’s everything you hoped it would be and more hahaha. It’s a can’t lose dish.


  • Chad

    I have to make this again. I used to make it alot and it is FANTASTIC !!! No need to change anything.


  • Rama

    Thanks for the recipe Elise. I think it came out real well. My daughter has to rate it now and pass the final judgement!


  • Viktoria

    Cut recipe in half except used 3/4 cup Italian bulk sausage and almost a full jar spaghetti sauce with fennel seed, oregano, thyme and fresh basil added plus 1/2 tsp sugar. So excellent. Perfect fit for smaller rectangle glass pan


    • Colton

      Made this dish. Accidentally used 2 lbs of mozzarella. Good thing Im from Wisconsin, loved it.

  • Peter Guggenheim

    Made this dish with extra ground beef, diced red bell pepper and an additional half lb. of chorizo for an extra spice kick. It smells good. It’s for tomorrow’s dinner down the shore.


  • Stephanie Ward

    This baked ziti is amazing!
    First ever baked ziti I had ever made and it definitely impressed!


  • Melissa

    Thank you for this recipe! I am using it to help out a neighbor who needs surgery and can’t get up to cook. Trying to figure out if I should pre-bake or just prepare in a baking dish and refrigerate for her. Any tips? Thanks again!

    • Carrie Havranek

      You can pre-bake it and then she or someone in her house can reheat it the next day or later. Or you can assemble the whole thing and cover it with foil, and she or someone can bake it at later that day. Thanks for your question, Melissa!

  • Amanda

    The flavor is there but the recipe calls for too much noodles in my opinion. Next time I make it I plan to use a little more than half the box it make it a bit more meatier and less like pasta with sauce and cheese


  • Georgette

    Ever since I’ve made this recipe the first timeoh, it is the only recipe I use now for baked ziti.
    My husband loves this baked ziti. Since he is not a big fan of Italian food and I am at least I can make this recipe and he’ll enjoy it. I use ground sirloin and I use low-fat cottage cheese instead of ricotta. I make it in two batches and freeze one batch. Thank you for this recipe


  • Sarah

    Is it better to make this a day ahead and bake it or refrigerate it? Trying to leave this for my husband and kids, wasn’t sure what would taste better, reheating or cooking it after it has been refrigerated 24 hours. Thanks!

  • Lisa

    I made this dish for my husband and I.. I used hamburger meat instead. This dish was amazing all be diffentally be making it again..


  • Glenda

    Easy to folloe recipe and simply delicious. My children all enjoyed it.


  • Donna

    Very good!


  • Evan

    To all the people complaining that their batch came out dry: make sure you don’t drain all of the grease, mix your pasta with the sauce before layering, and cover the dish with foil in the oven while it bakes.


  • Joey

    My husband and I both loved it…so much will make it again…soon


  • Sabrina

    Accidentally over cooked the sausage, still turned out great! Amateur cook made this recipe a success! Thanks a bunch!


    • Christie Myers

      Mine is baking and I can’t wait to try it!! Christie Myers Melbourne, Fl

  • Cindy H.

    This was EXCELLENT. I used Rao’s marinara sauce, which makes all the difference, IMO, if you aren’t using your own sauce. I also used sweet italian sausage. This was the best and a keeper. It did not last long.


  • Claudia

    Great recipe! Being vegetarian, I omitted the sausage, but otherwise followed the recipe. My husband immediately noticed the difference and asked, “What did you do differently? This is great!” This is definitely my new ziti recipe!


  • Carole

    It came out too dry. The ricotta stayed in clumps on top. It needs more liquid.


  • Debbie

    This is the first time I made this dish and I must say, it came out delicious!! Didnt quite know what the red pepper flakes were so I used black pepper.
    My husband likes sugar in his spaghetti sauce so I added about a half cup of sugar to the sauce. Other than that, nothing else was changed. The recipe says beef or pork so I used both. I peeled the sweet pork sausage and browned it with my ground beef!! Easy to make and I will be making this again!! Thank you for such a yummy recipe ☆☆☆☆☆


  • Judy

    added x-tra mozzeralla and gatlic-otherwise changed nothing


  • Yarida Reyes

    Easy recipe and delicious… only thing I changed was adding extra extra mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.


  • Renee

    I make baked ziti alot, and like to try others’ recipes. I followed the recipe exactly, except I had made spaghetti sauce in the crock pot the previous day (browned Italian sausage, jar of sauce, can of diced tomatoes, sauteed onion and garlic).
    I also broiled it for 3 minutes after baking to brown the top.
    What an easy recipe and oh-so-yummy!

    One note and this is not particular to you but to all online recipes:
    Could you please post the printable recipe at the TOP of the post, then the lovely pictures?
    Thanks, and keep up the good work!


  • Grace

    Excellent recipe. Very easy and took no time at all. My substitution: Because we’re ovo-lacto vegetarians, I switched out the meat for TVP. And since I had goat cheese on hand and not ricotta, I used the goat cheese. It was fantastic.


  • Stacie

    Delicious! I didn’t change a thing other than adding a little more ricotta cheese and extra mozzarella and parmesan cheese. In error, I did add 1/2 TBSP verses TSP of red pepper flakes. but it only gave it an extra kick! Excellent recipe and a keeper! Comes in at a tie to my baked spaghetti and seafood macaroni and cheese!! Thanks for sharing!


  • Tamika

    Awesome…. Easy and delicious


  • Julie

    This is my kids’ favorite. I’ve made it several times and just love it!!


  • Debbie

    How long do you have to bake this at 350° after it’s been assembled and then refrigerated for 5 hours?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Debbie! I’d add an extra 10 to 15 minutes to the baking time, or just bake until the cheese is melted and you see the casserole bubbling around the edges. Enjoy!

  • Erica

    How long does it
    Go in the oven
    For? Just 20 minutes?

  • Gwen

    One of our favorite recipes.


  • Johnna

    This is an awesome recipe which includes tips on technique, which is just as important as ingredients for baked ziti.

    An old Italian tip for ziti to keep the ricotta cheese from drying out during baking is to layer a single thin layer of bay leaves over the ricotta cheese to trap in moisture and to give it a bay leaf flavor which is an Italian must have. You just have to remove the bay leaf as you are eating your portion.

    You have to know and love bay leaf to use this method, but I was born and raise with bay leaf in my Italian grandmothers dishes.

  • Kathy

    My boyfriend says this is one of the top 5 dinners I ever made for him. This is an easy to make and a delicious meal!!!


  • Carrie

    I made this for dinner tonight, amazing! Highly recommended. I used classico sauce. Thank you so much for the delicious recipe!

  • alicia

    This recipe is delicious; it’s the only one we use now. I actually just use beef along with the listed spices – sometimes using .5T dried basil instead of fresh. Use block cheese! It really makes a difference when you grate your own.


  • Jessica

    Great hit with the kids. Used tri colored rotini noodles to make it more fun for them. Didn’t have have tomato sauce or marinara to work with so I used tomato soup which worked out great cause it added a slight sweet taste for the kids. Did the ground beef and basil choices. No onion but I substituted for flakes. Ended up having to broil it after 25min with all the extra cheese I put on top cause we love our cheese. Definitely making this again!

  • Audrey Black

    I just made this for dinner and it was easy and fabulous! I altered it slightly and added the ricotta and some of the mozzarella and parmesan in with the pasta mixture making it delightfully gooey. I also added a can of diced tomatoes for extra texture. I was pleased that it cooked even quicker than the recipe said. When I make it again (and I definitely will!) I would like to add a handful of spinach.


  • Marilyn M

    This is my 3rd time making this recipe. By far the best I’ve made. I used ground beef, pork and veal that I found at the grocers.
    A bit less sauce because some family members don’t react well to it.
    I buy fresh mozzarella and parmesan to make this.
    The recipe is a keeper..


  • Alesha

    Wow! Easy and delicious…my kind of cooking! Bar none the best and tastiest ziti I’ve ever had. Thank you for a new fam favorite!


  • Tara

    2nd time making, delicious both times, quick, inexpensive, simple! I change a few things for more our liking- more cheese and what not. Very good, thanks!


  • Vicki

    Wondering if I can make this ahead of time and just freeze? Any tips on that , how to thaw Etc? Thank you it looks wonderful!

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Vicki! Yup, this casserole freezes very well, either unbaked or baked. Just wrap the casserole dish well in a few layers of foil, and freeze for up to a month. (If you don’t want your casserole dish tied up in the freezer, then line it with foil and lift the casserole out of the dish once it’s frozen in a block. When you’re ready to back, just unwrap it from the foil and plop it back in the casserole dish.) Defrost overnight and bake as directed. Enjoy!

  • Teresa Cason

    I made enough to fill 6 half-sheet pans and served it at my daughter’s graduation party. I had an Italian themed buffet. I made them a week in advance and froze them. Before the party I added the mozzarella and put them in the oven, served it in chafing dishes. Everyone loved it! I had 50+ guests and it was easy for them to serve themselves. This has all of the flavor of lasagna without dealing with the noodles.


    • daniella

      Hi Teresa,
      I am making this for my daughter’s birthday party this weekend, anticipating 50+ guests as well. Do you have any recollection of how you multiplied ingredients to fill 6 half trays and was it enough? Going by recipe suggestion of serving “at least 8”, I was going to multiply everything by 7 to hopefully have plenty. Thank you for any suggestions!

  • Allison

    Delicious. I used a little more sauce (48oz) as I had two medium size jars on hand. One was meat sauce, the other chunky tomato & garlic. I also used a little more ricotta and mozz too. I will definitely make this again.


  • Amanda

    I tweaked this recipe quite a bit based on my own tastes and tips from my partner’s Italian American family… I crack one egg into the pasta once drained and mix it up, though my partner recommended craving it into the baking pan with half the pasta and mixing that (I didn’t notice a difference). This is to keep it together more as a casserole. I left out the onion and mozzarella cause I’m not a fan, I subbed in more Parmesan, turns out great in my opinion! This is a fantastic base recipe and easy to tweak. I also made it ahead for friends who had just had a baby, all they had to do was pop into the oven for 20 mins! So easy!


  • Adam

    My husband and I are flight attendants so I am always looking for dishes that make a ton, as we usually pack our food for 3-4 days at a time. This recipe not only makes more than enough to feed a small army, it is absolutely delicious. Wouldn’t change a thing!


  • Sara

    Was a big hit among kids and adults at dinner party


  • Sarah

    I made the recipe with ground turkey and some fresh mozzarella added in with the ricotta layer and it was delicious!


  • Laura Cerabella

    Everyone loved it! However, next time I will use the sweet sausage instead of the hot, the extra red pepper flakes gave the dish extra fire. A very easy dish for a weekend, we will have leftovers tomorrow.


  • Riva

    Hi, Elise…
    Could this be made with a tomato-basil jarred sauce and eliminate the fresh basil?
    Just asking in case fresh basil isn’t available at the grocery store when I want to make it.

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Riva! Sure, you can use jarred sauce, though the basil flavor won’t be quite as fresh-tasting. You could also just swap the basil for rosemary, which is just as good! Enjoy!

  • Sapphire

    One word……FANTABULOUS!!!!! This dish is a winner, all day everyday. Fast, easy, and delicious.


  • Kathy

    This was the best recipe I ever made!!! My boyfriend stated this was one of the top 5 meals that I ever cooked for him. I’ve been cooking for him for 20 years!!! He just asked that I cook this for him again. You won’t be disappointed. Wonderful meal easy recipe. Well done!!


  • Carlos

    I did everything i was a student learning from a great teacher thank you everything was on point


  • Nora

    Fantastic !! I used all organic ingredients ! My Family Loved every bite !

  • Jennifer

    Every Sunday I cook and friends come over for dinner. This week it was Italian themed. I ended up using the whole container of ricotta. Everyone loved the baked ziti! I’ll definitely be keeping this in my rotation.


  • Diana R

    Made baked Ziti following this recipe for the first time. It was a big hit! I doubled the recipe and have plenty of left overs. Everyone loved it.


  • Jackie

    I love this recipe! It’s delicious and so simple! I wonder if anyone has recommendations for making this ahead of time and freezing? Thanks!

  • Elena

    Can you not add the meat in ziti?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Elena, and just have cheesy tomato ziti? Sure! You might want to add some mushrooms and/or spinach to give it more umph.

  • Iman

    This was SO good! Definitely a hit with my friends!!


  • Ali

    I just made this for tonight’s dinner. Please tell me if I read the directions wrong. How does it take 10 minutes to prep.?? I broke out into a sweat preparing it.

    • Niko

      I just made this and took about an hour to prep for me. But I also have a screaming baby that I’m running back and forth to

    • Heather

      I would say it takes about an hour and a half, start to finish.

    • Celeste

      Probably depends on how fast you chop, if you buy graded cheese, or what method you use to grate your own/ mechanical or by hand. If everything is pre- ground and grated you only need to chop the onion, garlic and herbs and cook the onion/ meat and throw everything else out from containers and bags.

  • Dhaval Patel

    Great recipe!

  • Nikki

    Best baked ziti I have ever had.. I can’t believe I made it with my own hands!! Very great recipe I’ll be keeping forever thank you


  • Steph

    I’ve been coming back to this recipe for a couple years and refuse to seek out others. It is so good. Thank you!!


  • Jan

    This was fabulous! Of course I added my own grandmother version of Italian seasonings. My children ask for this every two-three weeks now! They always want it added into my repertoire!


  • Michael Hovermale

    Made it once wife loved it so it is now a household staple. I a bit more red pepper and cheese. Delicious!!!


  • Sher

    I’m cooking for 50 people and was wondering if this could be baked right in my nesco oven? I’ve searched high and low for the perfect ziti recipe and this is the one I’ve chosen! :)

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Sher! Emma here, managing editor. Have you baked other casseroles like this in your Nesco? If so, then I think this recipe should work just fine! We haven’t tested it in any kind of similar kitchen device, but if it basically operates like an oven or a slow cooker, then I think it will work ok. Let us know how it goes!

  • Kirsten

    Awesome recipe. Easy and delicious.


  • Tracy

    I loved this way it was easier and really simple to make…my family really enjoyed it..Will be a returning meal..Thanks
    Need to how to make manicotti…


  • Sarah

    This looks amazing! Could I make the casserole dish the night before and then bake it the next night?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Sarah! Emma here, managing editor. Yup, you could definitely make it one night and cook the next! Just make sure to cover the dish in the refrigerator, and I’d just wait to sprinkle that final topping of cheese until just before you bake so that the cheese doesn’t dry out too much.

  • MAMA2B

    It was a hit at my home! I used ground turkey instead and Ragu sauce! Yummy!


  • Dana

    Does anyone know of this can be frozen and baked at a later time?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Dana! Emma here, managing editor for Simply Recipes. Yes, most pasta casseroles do quite well frozen, either before or after oven-baking. Make sure the casserole is completely cool, then wrap in a double-layer of foil, label, and freeze. To heat, loosen the foil around the frozen casserole and bake for about 45 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until bubbly. Enjoy!

      • Christy

        Can you use cottage cheese instead of ricotta?

        • Emma Christensen

          Hi, Christy! I would suggest draining the cottage cheese for about 10 minutes in a strainer and then blitzing it in a food processor so that it gets the consistency of ricotta. But then, yes, I think you could sub!

    • Tj

      Thanks for asking

  • Marcy Frank

    Great recipe! I was looking for my daughters favorite recipe when she was a child, couldn’t find it, so checked out Google, and here it is, just as she remembered it, thanks so much! By the way…you look so much like a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer that I served with in Botswana, Africa with your last name. Any chance that Deanna is a relative of yours? : )


    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Marcy, I’m so glad you liked the baked ziti! Regarding Botswanna, I know of no relatives named Deanna, and no one in my extended family that I am aware of has served in the Peace Corps (yet).

  • Sophia

    This recipe was SO GOOD!!! I tried making it with my father for the first time, and it turned out really good!!! Thank you for sharing, and have a nice day:)

  • Tosha

    It’s really good and simple. My recipe is pretty much the same but I do substitute ricotta cheese for cottage cheese. I have never liked ricotta. I do the same with my lasagna as it melts nice with mozzarella and provolone. I also double the recipe and for a wake I would make to double pans!!!


  • Deb

    I LOVE this recipe- make it almost weekly for the kids. I’ve used both ground beef, sausage or both and they’re all great. I love to use lots of basil. I also use slices of fresh mozzarella on top instead of grated cheese.


  • Kelly K

    Baked Ziti is my kryptonite. Love this recipe. Broil it for a couple minutes at the end, if you like the burnt layer of cheese and crispy ziti ends. You’re welcome. ;)


  • Darlene

    Yum. I am making this right now for supper. Can’t wait. Looks so succulent. Will be so tasty during our snow storm.
    Thank you Elise.
    Have a wonderful day.

  • Rebecca

    I made this for the first time tonight and it was delicious! I used half ground beef and half mild Italian sausage, and I mixed half the mozzarella in with the noodles and pasta sauce before layering. My husband said, “It’s good!” I can tell when he really likes something by how many times he goes back for more—3 times for this one! It’s a keeper! Thank you!

  • Nan

    This is a great recipe. I follow it so I will give it a high rating rather than over tweaking and then a high rating. So it is still Elsie’s recipe. I make my own sauce but have used a good jar type when having “we will be over in 2 hours” type guests. Try it. Always put sauce in the bottom of your baking pan as stated. In a hurry after Browning, getting cheeses ready I also have mixed all together with ziti or penne and then added cheeses on top. The ingredients are the same but to be truly honest I have occasionally “tweaked” the arrangement of the recipes ingredients

  • Edith R

    Can i make this with chicken instead?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Edith, I haven’t tried this with chicken. If you do, please let us know how it turns out for you!

      • Edith R

        Any chicken & red sauce recipe recommendations?

  • Janet

    I made this with the tomato sauce link, it is so good! Also used ground beef and ground pork came out awesome! My Italian friends usually use cut up Italian sausage in place of gound pork which is the way I have cooked it for years! I like this recipe better! Thank you for sharing!

  • Eats Yummy

    I am a fan of Baked Ziti when eating in Sbarro. Haven’t tried cooking one at home. Will surely try this recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  • Melissa Aguirre

    I made this amazing recipe for my daughters pasta feed, and it was a big hit with her cross country team. I will be making this Baked Ziti recipe all the time now.

  • Shads

    I’ve tried so many times to make baked ziti, and failed miserably every time. My ziti would always turn out too dry, too soupy, or just not flavorful enough. Until I tried this recipe. It came out perfectly! It was so delicious, and everyone loved it! I’m making it again tonight for my daughter’s birthday dinner. Thanks, Elise, for helping me finally learn how to make baked ziti!

  • Jonathan Moore

    Awesome recipe elise!! Same recipe I grew up with, even better reheated a few days later!! Great comfort food.

  • Allison

    How do you adjust the cooking time if you freeze this? I’m planning on making ahead and freezing for friends who are having a baby.

    • Elise Bauer

      Great question Allison, I don’t know because I don’t freeze this. Perhaps an additional 15 minutes?

  • Sam

    I love your recipe I fix this for my family all the time now.. Thank you so much.

  • Denise Stamps

    Delicious! Love the way it’s put together. Great dish for company.

  • Sue Kelley

    I suggest dicing a small zucchini into the tomato sauce for extra fiber and vegetables. I used Italian sausage meat which I prefer to beef.

  • Steve

    I substituted the cottage cheese mixed with a couple of eggs for the ricota, i also used spicy italian sausage and ground beef, it was amazing!!!

  • Elizabeth

    Elizabeth again-I forgot to tell you I used gluten-free pasta made from just corn-my daughter is on a special diet-the corn pasta is actually better tasting Nguyen and has a better texture than regular pasta-we love it-thanks again!

  • Elizabeth

    I had cottage cheese,grated Parm and sour cream-used it for the dollops-also only had cheddar cheese-I also browned some frozen meatballs in the oven-halved them and added in the middle-can’t wait till it comes out of the oven-thanks for the recipe!!

  • Candy

    Can I leave put the ricotta? Or is there a substitute for it?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Candy, some people use cottage cheese instead of ricotta.

  • E Johnson

    Omg so good and this was my first try. I used Barilla Marinara sauce, 90% ground beef, and Stop and Shop 3 Cheese Blend. The ricotta was definitely a nice addition but going forward, I will try the recipe without it.

  • Randall Barrett

    Oh Man, this is awesome. I’ve made this twice. First time followed the instructions, second time I used Rebbeca B’s suggestions (thanks!) and it was awesome both times. For my family we prefer ground chuck (drained) and just parsley/basic (instead of Italian seasoning), but when you combine ground beef, cooked noodles, marinara sauce and three types of cheese – it’s hard for it not to come out awesome…

  • Maxine McBrooks

    Made this tonight for me and my boyfriend I used fresh basil instead of instead of rosemary. It was AMAZING this is my first time using a recipe from this site and I’m excited to try more. Thank You soooooooooooo much for the recipe.

  • Rebecca B

    This recipe is delicious and I’ve made it so many times. The first time I made it exactly as written and used turkey sausage. I didn’t like having all of the mozzarella cheese on top of the noodles. It kinda created a thick layer that was hard to bite through for the kids.
    2nd time – used pork sausage. Tossed the pasta with half of the sauce and half of the mozz cheese. Half of noodle mixture into baking dish, top with ricotta cheese. Second layer of noodle mixture, more ricotta, the rest of the sauce, then the remaining mozz cheese and parmesan.
    This was fantastic!! Hubby requested that I use more sausage next time, so third try is in the oven as I type this! But I made it the same was as my second time. I like that the sauce and cheese are more even throughout the dish.

  • Jim Henderson

    This was excellent! I used, ground beef. Thanks for sharing.

  • Tara walker

    This was very good! I left out the sausage and it was very good! thanks!


    Should you drain the ground beef before adding the sauce? Won’t it be greasy if you do not?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Kelly, it depends on how fatty your meat is. You want at least a tablespoon of fat in the pan when you add the onions. If your meat is rendering a lot of fat (perhaps if you are using a high fat content sausage), then sure, remove some of the fat. Just remember that where there is fat, there is flavor. So you don’t want to remove all of the fat.

  • Luz Marie Ramirez

    Thanks so much for your recipe! I can’t wait to try it tonight as I’ll be making it for a potluck tomorrow. Quick question, how long do I wait after I’ve made it to put in the refrigerator and then how long do I leave out before putting it into the oven the next day?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hello Luz Marie, you should let it cool down to room temp before putting it in the refrigerator. You can put it directly in the oven from the refrigerator.

  • 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!

    • jill

      I’m guessing you’d have to change the baking time to accommodate the dry noodles; this only calls for 20 minutes. I’m not fond of the dry noodle method – there’s something different about the texture. I imagine it’s just a personal preference.
      This was great! The only change I made was a family preference – I buy the Italian (mild) sausage links and squeeze them out of the casings into little chunks of sausage – almost like a meatball and brown them. I’ve got a fussy eater who’ll eat meatballs but not meat sauce and another that likes neither. I’m able to take care of both this way. :)

  • 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?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Cynthia, the texture and taste will be affected, but it will still be good without the ricotta.

    • Ryan Heath

      my wife also hates Ricotta cheese. It’s a texture thing for her. So we just substitute cottage cheese. It still works pretty well.

    • Matthew

      I do like Ricotta cheese, but I know it’s not for everyone. I love this simply recipes version as the layers give great texture, but I found one ( which mixes sour cream into the tomato sauce. This gives it a creamier flavor and might help balance if you don’t like Ricotta. Hope it helps!

  • 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 Bauer

      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 Bauer

      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 Bauer

      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 Bauer

      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 Bauer

      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 Bauer

      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 Bauer

      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 Bauer

      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!