Composed of layered noodles, Italian sausage, tomato sauce, and a blend of cheeses, this baked ziti pasta is a delicious and comforting Italian-American dish. Perfect for busy weeknights, meal prepping, and an easy way to impress company!
🍝 What Makes This Recipe So Good
- Baked ziti pasta is similar to lasagna, with alternating layers of tender pasta, a rich marinara, and a hearty, well-seasoned meat filling. Because it’s layered, you’re sure to get plenty of each delicious component in every bite.
- If you’ve got a free evening in your otherwise-busy week, prep your baked ziti up to a day in advance to save future-you a ton of time! Follow the instructions below, but stop when you’ve got everything assembled in the baking dish. Let everything cool completely, then cover the dish tightly with foil and pop it in the fridge. The next night, you can go straight from the fridge to the oven – just adjust the bake time as needed since it’s starting out cold.
💰 Our 2 Cents
Don’t feel like you have to use Italian sausage if you come across a great deal on another type of meat. Ground beef, ground pork, and ground turkey are all great options, and you can use a blend to make things go a little further if you want.
👩🏼🍳 Chef’s Tips
- Don’t skimp on the salt. Salting the water really well is super important to getting satisfying, well-flavored pasta. Trust me, you can totally tell the difference between pasta cooked in plain water and pasta cooked in well-salted water.
- Speaking of the pasta, it’s important that you don’t overcook it on the stovetop. Since you’ll be baking the dish for half an hour or so, if the pasta is fully cooked before it goes in the oven, you risk it being overcooked by the time you sit down to eat. Boil it 1-2 minutes less than the instructions on the packaging indicate, and it’ll finish cooking in the oven.
More Delicious Italian Cuisine
- Pasta Napoletana
- Chicken and Spinach Manicotti
- Chicken Milanese
- Meatball Casserole
- Chicken Bryan
- Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Marinara
- Chicken Spiedini
Baked Ziti Pasta
- 9×13 baking dish
- cooking spray
- Large skillet
- 2 large wooden spoons
- large pot
- medium mixing bowl
- silicone spatula
For the Italian Meat Sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion (diced)
- 1 pound ground Italian sausage (or ground beef or ground pork)
- 1 28-ounce jar marinara sauce
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (undrained)
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (more or less to taste)
For the Pasta
- 12 cups water (enough to cover pasta completely)
- 1 ½-2 tablespoons salt
- 1 pound dry ziti
For the Baked Ziti
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional, to garnish)
- Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Lightly grease 9×13 baking dish, coating bottom and sides well, then set dish aside.
For the Italian Meat Sauce
- Heat large skillet over medium heat. When pan is hot, add olive oil and swirl pan to distribute oil evenly across entire surface. Continue heating pan until oil is hot and shimmery.
- When oil is hot, add diced onion to skillet. Sauté onion, stirring often, 3 to 5 minutes or until onion begins to soften.
- Add Italian sausage to skillet and cook 8 to 10 minutes, breaking up sausage with back of wooden spoon, until sausage is crumbled and mostly browned.
- When sausage is ready, drain any excess fat from skillet and discard. Return skillet to heat and add marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, rosemary, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
- Stir well to fully incorporate ingredients, then simmer mixture 10 to 15 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking or burning.
For the Pasta
- While sausage mixture simmers, bring large pot of water to boil over high heat. Once water begins to boil rapidly, add salt and stir to incorporate.
- Allow water to return to full boil, then add dry ziti. Boil ziti 1 to 2 minutes less than indicated in package directions.
- Once pasta is just barely al dente, immediately pour water and noodles into colander. Drain well, then set aside.
For the Baked Ziti
- Add ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, and ¼ cup parmesan to medium mixing bowl. Stir well to fully incorporate ingredients, then set bowl aside.
- Place 1 ½ cups of meat sauce to bottom of prepared baking dish. Spread sauce out evenly to cover.
- Place 50% of boiled ziti on top of sauce in one even layer.
- Top ziti with 50% of ricotta mixture. Spread ricotta out evenly across top of pasta to cover completely.
- Repeat layers with remaining sauce, pasta, and ricotta mixture, then sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese evenly across top of dish.
- Place baking dish in preheated oven. Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes or until cheese has melted completely and top layer of mozzarella is golden and bubbly.
- When baked ziti is ready, carefully remove baking dish from oven. Let stand 3 to 5 minutes, then divide dish between serving plates. Sprinkle chopped parsley over individual servings if desired, then serve warm with preferred sides.
- Make it Gluten Free: Use gluten-free pasta.
Recipe costs provided are approximate. Actual cost per recipe & serving will vary by location, store, brand, etc. Approximate cost shown does not include costs for any optional ingredients.
Number of total servings shown is approximate. Actual number of servings will depend on your preferred portion sizes. Nutritional values shown are general guidelines and reflect information for 1 serving using the ingredients listed, not including any optional ingredients. Actual macros may vary slightly depending on specific brands and types of ingredients used. To determine the weight of one serving, prepare the recipe as instructed. Weigh the finished recipe, then divide the weight of the finished recipe (not including the weight of the container the food is in) by the desired number of servings. Result will be the weight of one serving.