Baked Ziti is one of these incredibly delicious, foolproof, evergreen pasta recipes everybody loves. Tender pasta in a rich and creamy, cheesy tomato sauce and finished with more deliciously gooey cheese. What's not to like?
This pasta casserole recipe is not just delicious and comforting but also really easy to make.
All you need is your favorite pasta sauce, canned tomatoes, eggs, and of course, lots of cheese. Similar to our Lasagna Roll Ups, this recipe uses three kinds of cheese: creamy ricotta, gooey mozzarella, and flavorful parmesan. The rest is child's play.
This is a great recipe if you're looking to feed a crowd in a hurry. In less than an hour, you'll have dinner on the table.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Baked Ziti also holds up very well on any buffet (except that it will probably be one of the dishes that disappears first). After working in the hospitality industry for almost 15 years, I've learned that good baked ziti will make even the toughest crowd very happy.
- deliciously gooey cheesy
- can be made ahead
- perfect to easily feed a crowd
- versatile, vegetarian, and omnivore options
- allows for modifications and substitutions
What You'll Need
PASTA - Choose your ziti pasta from your favorite brand.
PASTA SAUCE - Choose whichever pasta sauce you and your family like best. We often opt for Roasted Garlic Sauce, Marinara, or Vodka sauce.
TOMATOES - Adding a can of diced tomatoes adds texture and boosts the tomato flavor.
EGGS - Adding two eggs serves two purposes. It helps to bind the sauce, and it adds a good bit of protein.
CREAM - Heavy cream adds a creaminess to the sauce.
CHEESE - For this recipe, we'll pair three kinds of cheese that go really well together: Mozzarella, Ricotta, and Parmesan. The flavors blend well, and you'll end up with a deliciously cheesy sauce.
How To Make Baked Ziti
- PASTA - Cook the pasta according to package instructions.
- MOZZARELLA - Slice half of the mozzarella cheese and dice the other half.
- SAUCE - In a large pot, combine half of the pasta sauce, tomatoes, eggs, heavy cream, 1 cup ricotta, and 1 cup parmesan cheese and bring to a slow simmer. Add diced mozzarella and continue to simmer until the cheese has completely melted. Add cooked pasta. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- BAKE - Transfer pasta to a casserole dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the pasta mixture. Top with sliced mozzarella and the remaining ½ cup ricotta, and then sprinkle with ½ cup parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 minutes at 400º Fahrenheit.
Tips For Success
- Cook pasta al dente, which means tender but firm. The pasta brand I use recommends 9-11 minutes for this pasta. 9 minutes is plenty.
- Use plenty of water when you cook the pasta. It allows the pasta to move more freely in the pot and therefore cook more evenly.
- Be sure to season your pasta water with salt. I typically use about one tablespoon of salt for 1 pound of pasta. Add the salt after the water has come to boil, but before adding the pasta. Why? Tap water has a lower boiling point than salted water.
EXPERT TIP: Did you know that 1 pound of pasta will generate about 8 cups of cooked pasta?
This recipe is a meatless version of Baked Ziti.
And chances are most people won't miss the meat in this recipe. That's because the eggs add plenty of richness and protein.
But you can easily turn this into a meat-baked ziti recipe.
GROUND BEEF: Take one pound of ground beef. I prefer lean (90/10) ground beef for this recipe because the cheeses provide plenty of flavors already. And it's an easy way to avoid extra calories without sacrificing flavor.
Use a cast iron pan and brown the meat over medium-low heat. Transfer the meat to the pasta sauce before adding the cooked ziti.
ITALIAN SAUSAGE: Another popular alternative is adding sausage to the sauce. Brown the sausage in a cast iron pan. Separate the sausage with a wooden spoon into bite-sized chunks and transfer into the pasta mixture before adding the baked ziti.
Both sweet and spicy Italian sausage will work in this recipe. If you want to be creative, try a combination of both.
GROUND TURKEY: The same works for ground turkey.
GROUND CHICKEN: Not traditional, and I've never tried making it with ground chicken, but I'm sure it would be quite delicious, too. Cook the ground chicken like you would ground beef or ground turkey. Add it to the sauce before adding the ziti. Season with salt and pepper.
Did you know there are more than 600 known pasta shapes? If you ever wonder about pasta shapes, this site is a good reference.
If you don't have ziti pasta on hand, simply substitute it with any short pasta such as penne, rigatoni, or tubini. Fusilli pasta would work as well.
More Easy Comfort Food Ideas
- 16 ounces ziti pasta
- Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit.
- Cook pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- Cut the log of mozzarella cheese in half. Slice half of the cheese and dice the second half. Set aside.
Making The Sauce
- In a large pot combine half of the pasta sauce, diced tomatoes, eggs, diced mozzarella, 1 cup of parmesan, and 1 cup of ricotta cheese. Whisk over medium heat until the ingredients have heated.
- Add diced mozzarella cheese and combine until almost melted. Add cooked ziti pasta and combine well.
- Transfer pasta mixture into a 9x13 inch casserole dish.
- Top the pasta mixture with the remaining pasta sauce, ½ cup ricotta cheese, sliced mozzarella. Drizzle remaining parmesan cheese.
- Cover casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake covered for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for 5 minutes.