Baked Ziti

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!  

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Baked ziti being lifted from white pan after being baked

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

Cuisine Inspiration: Italian-American
Get ready because we’re diving fork-first into the heart of Italian-American cuisine with this cheesy, oh-so-comforting baked ziti! Think of it as the lasagna’s fun cousin that got all the laid-back genes but none of the fuss.

Primary Cooking Method: Baking
We’re cranking up the oven for this one, folks! Baking helps all those incredible flavors meld together into one harmonious, cheese-crowned dish. Is your mouth watering yet?

Dietary Info: High-Cheese, Comfort Food
Let’s be real: this baked ziti is comfort food to the max, loaded with cheese, pasta, and all things nice! It’s a hearty dish that’s sure to leave you feeling satisfied.

Key Flavor: Cheesy Tomato Goodness
We’re talking layers of pasta, smothered in a rich, herby tomato sauce, interspersed with creamy pockets of ricotta and crowned with a golden layer of melted mozzarella. It’s like a hug in casserole form.

Skill Level: Easy Peasy
Don’t worry, you got this! Assemble your ingredients, layer it up, and let the oven work its magic. Perfect for beginners to kitchen pros alike!

Special Perks:
Comfort in a Dish: This isn’t just food; it’s a mood. Perfect for when you need a little culinary TLC.
Feed the Crowd: Got a house full of hungry mouths? Baked ziti to the rescue! It’s a surefire crowd-pleaser.
Make Ahead Magic: Prep it in advance and pop it in the oven when you’re ready. Stress, be gone!
Freezer Friendly: Made too much? Is that even a thing? If you say so – just freeze it for later!
Versatility is Key: Feel free to jazz it up! Add veggies, swap the proteins, or play with the cheeses. Make it your own!

Delicious ziti pasta in a white baking dish with shredded cheese on top before putting in the oven

Ingredients

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: 

A delicious sausage tomato sauce is being stirred with a wooden spoon in a large pot
  • 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 SeasoningIf 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 pasta being poured into boiling water
  • 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. 
Fresh baked ziti fresh out of the oven after being baked

How to Make Baked Ziti

  1. Turn Up the Heat: Crank your oven up to a toasty 375 degrees and let it preheat. It’s like sunbathing for your ziti—only way tastier!
  2. Sizzle and Simmer: Grab a pot that’s medium-large (it’s gotta be ready to handle all this flavor) and drizzle in some olive oil. Set that baby on the stove over medium-high heat.
  3. Flavor Town Express: Toss in your Italian sausage (or ground turkey if you’re keeping it lean), onion, green pepper, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Let it all get nice and brown. We’re building flavors here, people!
  4. Garlic’s Grand Entrance: Next up, garlic. Give it a minute to say hello to the rest of the flavors—it’s only polite.
  5. Tomato Tango: It’s time for the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken stock, red wine (oh yeah!), Italian seasoning, sugar, and red pepper flakes to join the party. Let it all simmer and mingle until the sauce gets thick and irresistible, about 15-20 minutes. Patience, my dears—it’s worth it!
  6. Pasta Plunge: Stir in your cooked ziti pasta. Look at it, taking a dive into that gorgeous sauce!
  7. Bake and Cheese: Pour the pasta and its saucy entourage into a greased baking dish. Now, crown that masterpiece with cheese, and pop it into the oven. Give it about 10-20 minutes until it’s bubbly and golden. Want more browning? Quick, under the broiler it goes!
  8. The Cool Down: Let it chill for 15 minutes (we know, it’s hard to wait). Sprinkle over some fresh parsley for that gourmet touch, and then serve up that comfort on a plate!

What to Serve With

Serve with my Garlic Bread or a simple no-knead bread to make this meal unforgettable! 

Also a lovely leafy salad like this Harvest Fall Salad or even a veggie side like this braised cabbage or this brussels sprouts recipe will also complete this meal perfectly.

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.

A ziti pasta being lifted from a white pan

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: 

Baked ziti being lifted from white pan after being baked

Baked Ziti Recipe

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!
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course: Main Course
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

To save time, you can also use a jar of favorite tomato sauce.
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.

Nutrition

Calories: 419kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 58mg | Sodium: 665mg | Potassium: 667mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 542IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 180mg | Iron: 3mg
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Filed Under:  Cuisines, Dinner, Italian Recipes, Main Dishes, Oven, Pasta

Comments

  1. One more thing to add. Jocelyn says it’s fine to use jar sauce. And of course it is!

    But the sauce in this recipe is SO GOOD. I think I may make up a batch of it and keep it in the fridge for the next time I make pasta. I mean, the sauce is (at least for me) plate-licking good. Yes, I said it. I licked my plate. Don’t judge me. 🙂

  2. Loved the Ziti! Husband and I stuffed ourselves and still only ate a little more than a quarter of it. Lots of leftovers. The ideal comfort food. Favorite part is there was plenty of sauce with the pasta. I’m used to mine always coming out dry. Planned to add mushrooms but completely forgot about them. Glad I did because this recipe came out perfect. Thank you so much!

  3. This is Sooooooo delicious!! Even my husband loved it!
    This will be my go to ziti recipe from now on. Thank you!!

  4. I made this for dinner last night and it was absolutely delicious!! I followed the recipe almost exactly, except that I used a pound of turkey Italian sausage instead of a mix of ground turkey and sausage. It’s just me and my husband, so I baked it in two 8×8 baking pans and froze one of them. I’m not sure what was magic about this recipe, but holy moly, it was good!

  5. Ziti is always a hit at my house, especially with the kiddos! Everyone loved this recipe last night, saving to make again soon!

  6. I love baked ziti and this recipe looks SOOOO good and cheesy! I love to make casseroles to freeze, and I bet this one would freeze really well.

  7. One of my favorite dinner recipes. I love the homemade sauce recipe. It really adds to the recipe when you make fresh sauce.

    1. Yeah, I agree — the homemade sauce made it really special. I will never make this recipe with jar sauce again!

5 from 10 votes

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