Baked Ziti Recipe (Easy Pasta Casserole)
Baked Ziti is an easy, saucy, and cheesy pasta casserole. This has all of the great flavors of Lasagna but is simple to prepare and serve as a pasta bake.
What is Baked Ziti?
Ziti is a tubular-shaped pasta. Baked ziti is an Italian-American casserole of ziti noodles with Marinara Sauce, ricotta, and cheese. The combination of mozzarella and parmesan is our secret to making the BEST Baked Ziti!
We love making baked ziti with meat sauce because it has all of the familiar flavors of classic Lasagna with Meat Sauce, but it comes together fast and is easy to serve as a pasta bake (without the fuss of layering lasagna noodles).
How to Make Baked Ziti:
This is the easiest pasta casserole and the results are so satisfying. It’s no wonder Baked Ziti is such a popular dish. Watch the video tutorial above and you will be a pro in no time.
- Cook pasta in salted water until al-dente then drain.
- In a dutch oven, sautee ground beef and onion until cooked through. Add garlic, salt, and pepper.
- Add Marinara Sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Ladle 1/2 cup sauce into a 9×13 casserole dish.
- Spoon in ricotta and basil and stir lightly. Stir in pasta, mixing just until noodles are coated.
- Add half the pasta mixture to the casserole, top with half the mozzarella and parmesan then repeat.
- Bake uncovered at 350˚f for 25 minutes then broil for 2 minutes to brown the top.
What Kind of Pasta Can I Use?
The classic pasta choice is ziti pasta. Ziti is a tube-shaped pasta, but you can also substitute with any short tubular shaped pasta, just be sure to cook until al-dente according to package instructions. If you aren’t able to find ziti noodles, try these instead:
Can I Substitute Ground Beef?
You can substitute with a variety of meats to change up your baked ziti. You can even make a vegetarian baked ziti and leave the meat out altogether. Any of these options will work great in this pasta casserole:
- Chicken – Baked Ziti is so easy using leftover rotisserie chicken
- Italian Sausage – cook the sausage as you would ground beef
- Ground Turkey – a leaner and tasty option
- Meatballs – sauteed meatballs work great for this casserole
What Vegetables Can I add to Baked Ziti?
Adding veggies is a great way to turn this pasta casserole into a meal in itself. If you’re looking to make baked ziti without meat, you can use one or all of these veggies together to make the best Vegetarian Ziti.
- Zucchini – dice and sautee with the onion until tender
- Mushrooms – slice and saute with onion until soft
- Cauliflower – roast cauliflower and add it to the sauce
Can I Make this Pasta Casserole Ahead?
Refrigerate Overnight: You can assemble, cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350˚F, covered with foil for 10 minutes until it comes to room temperature, then remove foil and bake as directed in the recipe.
To Freeze: Tightly cover and freeze unbaked casserole for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator then bake at 350˚F covered in foil for 10 minutes to bring it to temperature. Uncover and finish baking as directed in the recipe.
More Casserole Recipes:
We love casseroles for dinner because they can be made ahead and reheat really well so you get to enjoy leftovers for days. These are the top-rated casserole recipes on our blog. I hope you find many new favorites here.
Baked Ziti (Easy Pasta Casserole)
Baked Ziti is an easy, saucy, and cheesy pasta casserole. It has all of the great flavors of Lasagna but is simple to prepare and serve as a pasta bake.
- 1 lb ziti pasta or penne pasta
- 1 lb ground beef 85% lean
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 5 cups marinara sauce
- 15 oz fresh ricotta
- 10 fresh basil leaves
- 12 oz mozzarella cheese shredded, divided
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese divided
Cook pasta in salted water according to package instructions until just aldnte them drain (so not overcook since they will continue to cook in the oven).
In a deep pan or dutch oven, over medium-high heat, cook ground beef and onion, breaking up the beef with a spatula, until beef is fully cooked through and onions are softened (5-7 minutes). Add minced garlic, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and sautee another minute. Add 5 cups marinara, bring to a simmer and continue cooking 5 minutes then turn off the heat.
Spread a ladle of meat sauce over the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish.
Into the remaining sauce, add chopped basil and spoon in ricotta. Add cooked pasta and stir just until noodles are coated (you want to keep that ricotta texture)
Transfer half of the pasta to the casserole dish. Top with 1/2 of shredded mozzarella and 1/2 grated parmesan. Add remaining pasta and top with remaining mozzarella and parmesan.
Clear the edges of the pan so the cheese doesn’t burn onto the dish. Bake at 350˚F for 25 minutes. Broil 1-2 minutes to brown the cheese. Let cool 5 minutes then garnish with basil if desired and serve.