Loaded with savory sausage, Italian herbs, red-wine tomato sauce, tender pasta, and rich, melty cheese, this Baked Ziti recipe is a cozy dinner the whole family will love! Simple-to-make and easily customizable, this recipe is one you’re gonna want to keep on hand!
Buckle in y’all! Today, I’m sharing one of my all-time favorite pasta recipes! It’s my go-to dish when the weather has chilled and I’m craving a cozy, comforting meal.
Overflowing with hearty sausage, rich tomato sauce, and creamy mozzarella cheese, this Baked Ziti recipe is a staple in my household. It’s an easy, reliably delicious pasta dinner that can even be made in advance. Couldn’t we all use a few more fuss-free recipes under our belts?
I love spending hours in the kitchen layering lasagnas and stuffing individual shells to their limits, but mama doesn’t always have the time for all of that. This ziti comes together in one large pan, then makes its way to the oven to get that golden-brown, bubbly top. To die for!
With minimal effort and just under an hour of time, both you and I can have an outrageously tasty, meat and cheese lover’s pasta bake! Trust me, you’ll thank me 10 years from now when you’re still using this recipe for holidays, weeknights, or potlucks.
Perks and Highlights of the Best Baked Ziti Recipe
There are few things more satisfying than a bowl of freshly made pasta. With every warm, decadent bite of this baked ziti, I’m lulled into a relaxed trance. Add a couple slices of buttery, crisp garlic bread and you’ve got the perfect dinner!
What I love most about this recipe is its simplicity; the ingredients are mostly pantry-staple items and the whole dish can be prepared in about 45 minutes (most of that inactive). Did I mention this is a one-pot dish? You can always sign me up for an easier clean-up.
Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Olive Oil- There’s no such thing as Italian cooking without a little EVOO! If you’ve run out (*gasp*), vegetable, avocado, or even grapeseed oil will work.
- Italian Sausage- Sausage is rich, hearty, and fragrant. I chose to use a HOT Italian Sausage for some extra kick, but just about any variety will work here.
- Onion, Garlic, and Green Bell Pepper- Also known as the Southern Holy Trinity, these 3 aromatics work together to create an untouchable depth of flavor. Feel free to adjust the garlic measurement to your liking or to use any colored bell pepper you’ve got on hand.
- Crushed Tomatoes- I recommend investing in a can of high-quality crushed tomatoes, it truly makes all the difference.
- Tomato Sauce- This helps to thicken the sauce and add a bit of extra richness.
- Red Wine- Wine adds acidity to the dish, which in turn brings out the other flavors. The alcohol will burn off during cooking, so this dish is safe for the whole family!
- Chicken Stock- Stock is just another way to add in some extra flavor. Broth will also work here.
- Italian Seasoning– If you don’t already have a blend on hand, use a mixture of dried oregano, thyme, basil, and rosemary. As always, just be sure to taste as you go.
- Granulated Sugar- Seems out of place huh? Sugar helps to cut through the acidity of the tomatoes and create a more balanced sauce.
- Red Pepper Flakes- Heat helps to heighten flavor! Omit the pepper flakes if you’re not a fan of spice.
- Ziti- Honestly, any shaped pasta (outside of the long, stringy varieties) will work. Use what you have on hand!
- Mozzarella- The telltale sign of a delicious baked ziti is that bubbly, slightly-crisp, ooey-gooey layer of cheese on top. Don’t be afraid to pile on the mozzarella people!
- Parsley- parsley doesn’t add much in terms of flavor but the bright color makes a prettier plate.
How to Make Baked Ziti
What to Serve With
Leftover Storage and Reheating
Baked Ziti is a dish best (and most easily) prepared in large quantities, meaning you’ll most likely end up with leftovers. Once baked ziti has been cooked, then either transferred to an airtight container or covered tightly with plastic wrap, it will last about 3-5 days in the refrigerator. Alternatively, baked ziti can be frozen for up to 3 months, ensuring rich and comforting pasta long after it’s been cooked!
The best methods for reheating baked ziti are in the oven and in the microwave. If you are reheating individual portions, the microwave will work just fine. If you prefer crispier ziti or are reheating an entire dish, then the oven is your best choice.
For the best result, follow the reheating instructions below:
To reheat refrigerated baked ziti in the microwave: Place the baked ziti into a microwave-safe dish and pour a few drops of water or milk over it. Cover with microwave-safe plastic wrap and cook for 1 ½ minute on medium power, then check to see if it is warm. If it is still not warm all the way through, continue to heat in 15-second increments, which helps to ensure that the pasta doesn’t overcook and dry out.
To reheat frozen baked ziti in the microwave: Cover and heat in the microwave on high heat for 5 minutes. As with the microwaving method listed above, check on your baked ziti after this time is up, and if it hasn’t heated fully through, continue to heat in small increments of time, ideally 15 seconds, until it is fully heated.
To reheat refrigerated baked ziti in the oven: Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes.
To reheat frozen baked ziti in the oven: Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.
Best Pasta Recipes
Once a week my family and I gather around the table for a good ‘ole fashioned pasta night! Together we indulge in countless meatballs, garlic bread slices, stuffed shells, and mountains of parmesan. This tradition has become my idea of poppin Saturday night!
Want in on the family fun? Round up the kiddos and enjoy few of my FAVORITE pasta recipes:
- Creamy Garlic Pasta
- Cajun Jambalaya Pasta
- Lobster Mac and Cheese
- Homemade Hamburger Helper
- Baked Spaghetti
- Lasagna recipe
Baked Ziti Recipe
For the Sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 lb ground beef or turkey
- 1/2 lb Italian sausage
- salt to taste I used seasoned salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped onions
- 1/4 cup chopped green peppers
- 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
- 28 oz crushed tomatoes can
- 10 oz tomato sauce can
- 2 tbsp chicken stock
- 1 tbsp red wine
- 1 1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning can make it homemade
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- pinch of red pepper flakes if desired
- 8 oz zit pasta cooked and drained
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese up to 2 cups
- parsley for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Add olive oil to a medium large sized pot over medium high heat on the stove.
- Add Italian sausage (or ground turkey), onion, green pepper and salt and pepper. Brown until cooked.
- Next add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Then add in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken stock, red wine, Italian seasoning, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened about 15-20 minutes then remove from heat.
- Stir in cooked ziti pasta then add pasta and sauce to a greased baking dish, top with cheese then add to the oven and allow the cheese to become melty and browned (about 10-20 minutes- you can also put under the broiler if you want it more browned).
- Cool for 15 minutes then sprinkle with parsley and serve.