Baked Ziti, like lasagna but easier, this easy baked ziti recipe is the classic comfort food that makes for the perfect weeknight dinner. With only 20 minutes of prep, this easy to make dish, will become a go to meal in your home.
This ziti casserole is loaded with sausage and ground beef is a hearty and flavorful sauce, and of course, it wouldn’t be as good without the cheese! Ricotta, mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan combine to offer gooey, delicious goodness with each and every bite.
Everyone will be begging for seconds, and sopping up every last flavorful bite with garlic bread or cheesy garlic pull apart bread!
Baked Ziti is a favorite. Not only is it easy to make, a great dish for both ziti and lasagna lovers, it goes great with so many sides.
Great Side Dishes For Baked Ziti:
Soups, salads, bread, and veggies are all great side options for this dish. Here are some of my favorites.
- Slow Cooker Zuppa Toscana
- World’s Best Cheesy Garlic Bread Recipe
- Garlic Bread Twists Recipe
- Simple and Quick Dinner Rolls
- Roasted Carrots
- Roasted Asparagus Oven Baked
Why we Love this Pasta Dinner
- Baked Ziti makes for a great transportable casserole: Need to bring a neighbor an easy transportable meal? Make this dish in a tin foil, disposable pan. Or, just need to bring a main dish to a potluck dinner? How about Baked Ziti!
- Baked Ziti makes great leftovers: Easily reheat a serving of this dish in the microwave for another dinner or for a fun lunch. It can even be better on day two.
- Baked Ziti is a great alternative to lasagna: Craving lasagna without the fuss? Try Baked Ziti. A delicious, much easier to make, dish similar in flavor to lasagna.
What Is Baked Ziti?
Baked Ziti has a lot of the same elements as lasagna, but in my opinion it is much less intimidating.
Baked Ziti: It’s a layered pasta casserole comprised of alternating layers of a ziti and tomato sauce mixture with a combination of cheese layers. The sauce in itself may have additional ingredients like meat, onions, vegetables, or whatever the chef wants. In this case, I add fennel and some spices to amp it up, but keep it simple. And mix it together with a ground meat mixture for added flavor.
Want to make it vegetarian?? Eliminate the ground meats.
The top layer is more gooey, melted cheese.
Just talking about it makes my mouth start to water. You guys it’s just so good.
Unlike spaghetti, Baked Ziti is cooked in the oven in a pan, and although the combination of cheeses may differ between recipes, you need ricotta!
For this Baked Ziti recipe I use:
I really like adding provolone into the mix because it adds a great flavor and provides that extra gooeyness factor that we all love. But feel free to swap in other cheeses, as you like.
How To Make Baked Ziti:
This is a fantastic dish comprised of three main elements:
- Tomato based sauce.
- And ziti of course.
Now some may think: Do I Have To Use Ziti?
It’s in the title, so I feel like you have to. Just kidding. For those of you who don’t know me, I am flexible with my cooking. I like to keep things simple, and use whatever I have on hand.
You don’t have to use ziti, but you need to use a strong pasta that can handle the heaviness of the sauce, and allow you to have texture and flavor. No thin spaghetti please.
Rigatoni or penne make for a great alternative.
Then get your ingredients together and start prepping.
How To Make Baked Ziti:
- Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente.
- In a skillet brown onion, garlic, sausage, and beef.
- Add all the ingredients for homemade sauce, stir and simmer.
- Grease a baking dish.
- Add a portion of the sauce to the ziti and stir well.
- Stir sour cream and ricotta together.
- Layer 1/2 of the ziti, provolone cheese, sour cream/ricotta mixture, remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese and remaining sauce mixture. Top with grated parmesan.
- Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes with an additional 5 minutes for cheese to fully melt.
Note: For more specific details, see recipe at the end.
Follow these instructions and you will have a mouth watering good, cozy, classic comfort food dish.
What Makes This Baked Ziti Special?
It has all the right ingredients, flavor combos, and perfect amount of sauce to pasta to cheese ratio!
The Best Sauce For Baked Ziti:
There are a number of reasons why this Baked Ziti recipe is a favorite. First off it has a fantastic sauce.
Normally, I am all for easy and using a bottled sauce if it makes my life simple. However, in this case, instead of using store bought sauce, this recipe has a simple sauce that far out ranks the ones you find at the store.
The secret, a little bit of sugar and pinch of fennel to give it fabulous flavor.
This recipe uses the perfect combination of cheeses.
Let’s Talk Cheese: What Cheese Should I Use For Baked Ziti?
I am no stranger to cheese. Add cheese to a burger, load up some nachos with it, or have a sophisticated platter of a variety of cheeses, I love cheese.
Because of my love for cheese, I know that in order to have a stand out baked ziti, you need more than one cheese. I have provided the perfect variety.
- Ricotta: This cheese is a staple. You can’t have baked ziti without it. No reason to even argue this point.
- Mozzarella: Offers the perfect melted, bubbly cheese and it goes great with baked ziti.
- Parmesan: Parmesan is for pizazz. It provides that zing of flavor.
- Provolone: Many baked ziti recipes don’t have this cheese and that is a grave mistake. Not only does it offer a great depth of flavor to the dish, it also adds an extra gooeyness factor that really makes the dish sing. Provolone is my secret weapon for this dish and many will compliment you on this gooey goodness.
Layering Baked Ziti:
Lastly, my baked ziti is so special because I pay attention to detail, like with how I sauce the noodles and toss them in the sauce, rather than just layer them with sauce.
You don’t want to just put noodles down and then add sauce and layer, this can cause parts fo the casserole to be too dry, or make the pasta crunchy it is not properly covered in sauce. So to avoid this, I toss the pasta with sauce.
If you have ever eaten a baked ziti dish with some dry, unappetizing noodles you know how important this step is!
There you have it. An amazing sauce, with the perfect blend of cheeses, along with a little saucing, makes for a really special Baked Ziti recipe.
Can I Make Baked Ziti Ahead?
Absolutely you can. In fact, this is one of the reasons I love this dish. I can make it when I have time, then bake it just before I am ready to serve. Here is how:
Note: Don’t bake.
Just don’t bake the ziti. Save baking for when you are ready to eat. Make Baked Ziti a couple of days ahead of time, if you want to get a jump on your week.
Don’t let it sit in the fridge prior to baking, for more than a couple of days.
Some of you may want to make Baked Ziti much further in advance, like maybe a couple of months. This would require a freezer meal situation. But don’t worry, I have got you covered.
Can You Freeze Baked Ziti?
Yes! In this case you will, prep, assemble, and bake. Just make sure to allow time for your baked ziti to completely cool before putting it in the freezer.
Once cooled, seal it with plastic wrap or sturdy foil on top and put it in the freezer for 3 months or less.
- Cover and Freeze
When ready to bake, defrost in the refrigerator, then bake according to directions.
It’s Time To Make The Best Ever Baked Ziti!
Who doesn’t need another easy to make, weeknight dish that provides classic comfort right on a plate?! Baked Ziti is easy, delicious, hearty, cheesy and gooey goodness that comes together quickly for an easy weeknight meal.
Other Great Comfort Foods To Try:
- Lasagna Soup
- Old Fashioned Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Crockpot Beef Stroganoff
- Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Soup
- Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie
How to Make Baked Ziti Video:
- 1 pound dry ziti pasta
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- ½ pound italian sausage
- 6 ounces provolone cheese sliced
- 3/4 cups sour cream
- ¾ cup ricotta cheese
- 6 ounces mozzarella cheese shredded
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 12 ounces 2 cans tomato paste
- 13 ounces 2 cans tomato sauce
- ½ cup water
- ½ teaspoon fennel
- 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes; drain.
- In a large skillet, brown onion, garlic, italian sausage and ground beef over medium heat. Add all the sauce ingredients, stir well, and simmer 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
- Add ¾ of the sauce to the ziti and stir to coat it well.
- Stir the sour cream and ricotta together
- Layer: 1/2 of the ziti, Provolone cheese, sour cream/ricotta mixture, remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese and remaining sauce mixture. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.
- Cover with foil.
- Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, then remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheeses are melted.
Our recipe card software calculates these nutrition facts based on averages for the above ingredients, different brands, and quality of produce/meats may have different nutritional information, always calculate your own based on the specific products you use in order to achieve accurate macros for this recipe.
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Matt Taylor says