This Baked Ziti is an easy, saucy, cheesy pasta casserole with all of the great flavors of Lasagna, but so much easier to prepare. Watch the video tutorial below and see how simple it is to make this pasta bake that captures the essence of Italian-American flavors in every bite.

Baked ziti in casserole dish

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We love classic Italian recipes, and I’ve got some simple to make, but oh, so tasty ones to share! From Chicken Parmesan to Meatballs, and Manicotti too, if you are a fan of saucy, cheesy pasta, this Baked Ziti is a must-try!

Easy Baked Ziti Recipe

Baked ziti is an Italian-American casserole of tubular-shaped ziti noodles with Marinara Sauce, ricotta, and loads of gooey, melty cheese. Think of this Baked Ziti as a lazy lasagna- it has all of the familiar flavors of Lasagna, without the fuss of layering the noodles.

The combination of mozzarella and parmesan, a match made in pasta heaven, is our secret to making the BEST Baked Ziti! I love that this pasta casserole is make-ahead friendly, so customizable, and freezer-friendly too. No need to be precise or fancy with this dish. You can’t go wrong with pasta and cheese.

Baked Ziti Video

Watch Natasha make this easy Baked Ziti Pasta casserole. Get ready to dive into the comfort of saucy pasta and melted cheeses. You are going to love this one.

Why this Recipe Works

  • Easy – This recipe is nothing fancy – the ingredients are mixed together, and it’s not supposed to look perfect, but it sure tastes perfect.
  • Make-Ahead Friendly – This recipe can be prepared up to two days before baking. Not only does it freeze and reheat beautifully, but it also makes a wonderful meal for a potluck or a meal train dinner for a friend in need.
  • Picky-eater Approved – Baked Ziti recipes are customizable to your taste or dietary needs. See our suggestions below on how to make this dish your own.

Ingredients

The ingredients here are simple, so use the best quality you can source. If you have 10 minutes, try Homemade Marinara Sauce which is our secret to making the BEST Baked Ziti!

  • Ziti Pasta – cooked al dente – keep in mind it finishes cooking in the oven.
  • Ground Beef – I like to use 85% lean
  • Onion and Garlic – aromatics that add tons of flavor and aroma
  • Marinara Sauce – Homemade or store-bought
  • Ricotta – One 15-ounce container of fresh ricotta cheese
  • Basil Leaves – Ten fresh leaves, cut into thin strips
  • Mozzarella Cheese – We use low moisture, part-skim
  • Parmesan Cheese – One cup, freshly grated or shredded and divided

Variations

  • Meat – Try chicken or ground turkey instead of beef; add Italian sausage or meatballs; or omit the meat altogether to make a vegetarian casserole.
  • Vegetables – Adding veggies is a great way to bulk up this recipe and turn this pasta casserole into a meal in itself. Dice and sauteé zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms, and/or carrots and add them to your sauce mixture. Sprinkle chopped spinach or layer sliced and sauteed bell peppers between the layers of pasta. You can use one or all of these to make the best Vegetarian Baked Ziti.
  • Pasta – You can use any tubular pasta, ridges or no ridges, it’s up to you. Ziti is an obvious choice, but you can also use penne, rigatoni, cavatappi, or rotini. For a gluten-free pasta casserole, try a GF pasta.
  • Cheese – In addition to the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, you can top your baked pasta dish with fresh grated parmesan, or sliced fresh mozzarella.
Ingredients for ziti casserole: Ziti pasta, ground beef, basil, ricotta cheese, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, onion, garlic

How to Make Baked Ziti

This is the easiest pasta casserole and the results are so perfecto. It’s no wonder Baked Ziti is such a popular dish.

  • Boil – Set your oven to 350°F. While the oven preheats, boil a large pot of salted water and cook one pound of ziti pasta until al dente, then drain.
  • Sauteé – In a large sauté pan or Dutch Oven, sauté ground beef and onion until cooked through. Add minced garlic, salt, and pepper and continue cooking until the garlic is fragrant.
  • Combine – Pour Marinara Sauce into the meat and simmer for 5 minutes. Spread 1/2 cup of sauce into a 9×13 inch casserole dish to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom.
  • Stir – Spoon the ricotta cheese and basil into the pot of sauce and gently stir until lightly combined. Stir in the cooked pasta, mixing just until the pasta is coated.
  • Assemble – Add half the pasta mixture to the casserole dish, top with half of the mozzarella and parmesan cheese, and then repeat with another layer of pasta and finally, more cheese.
  • Bake – Bake uncovered at 350°F for 25 minutes and then broil for an additional 2 minutes to brown the top. Garnish with fresh basil and another sprinkle of parmesan cheese for good measure. We love to use this Cheese Grater.
Meat Sauce for baked ziti

Pro Tip:

Don’t overcook your pasta. You want to cook the pasta al dente (slightly firm) as it will continue to cook in the oven while baking.

How to make baked ziti in 4 steps

Can I use spaghetti instead of ziti?

Baked Ziti is really best with a tube-shaped pasta, to really hold onto that meat sauce. If you are looking for a spaghetti casserole, try our Chicken Tetrazzini recipe, it’s fantastic!

How can I make a healthy baked ziti?

Choose leaner meat (such as ground turkey), add low-fat cheeses (and reduce how much you use), and add extra vegetables to boost nutritional content are all easy ways to make this recipe healthier.

Can I double the recipe?

This is a great dish to feed crowds for a potluck or party. If you need to double the recipe, please use a second casserole dish or a large disposable aluminum pan.

Baked ziti in a casserole dish

How to Serve Pasta Casseroles

Be sure to let your Baked Ziti sit for 5 minutes after it comes out of the oven. After that, use a spatula to cut it into squares, or simply scoop it out of the dish with a spoon. Serve this classic dish with:

Make-Ahead

Baked ziti can be assembled ahead or baked ahead and reheated. It’s perfect for meal planning.

  • Prep-Ahead: Assemble, cover with foil, and refrigerate for up to two days before baking.
  • Storing Leftovers: Store leftover portions in airtight storage containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Reheating Leftovers: Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before heating. Drizzle with a little water to keep it moist, cover with foil, and put in the oven at 350˚F for 20-30 minutes or until heated through. Timing will vary by the amount of ziti. You can also reheat in the microwave.
  • Freezing: Assemble in an aluminum or oven-safe casserole dish without baking. Cool completely and then tightly wrap it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. Freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw frozen ziti in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking as directed.
Baked ziti being scooped with a wooden spoon, showing the cheese pulls and layers of noodles, meat, cheese, and sauce.

“Mangia, mangia!” (an Italian phrase which means ‘Eat, eat!’)

More Casserole Recipes

We love casseroles for dinner because they can be made ahead and re-heat well so you get to enjoy leftovers for days. These are the top-rated, best-loved casserole recipes on our blog:

Natasha's Kitchen Cookbook

Baked Ziti (Easy Pasta Casserole) VIDEO

4.99 from 236 votes
Author: Natasha Kravchuk
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. 
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients 

Servings: 10 people
  • 1 lb ziti pasta, or penne pasta or gluten-free 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

Instructions

  • Cook pasta in salted water according to package instructions until just al dente, then drain (do not overcook as the pasta 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, salt, pepper, and sauteé for another minute. Add 5 cups marinara sauce, bring to a simmer, and continue cooking for 5 minutes then turn off the heat.
  • Spread a ladle of meat sauce into the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish.
  • Add chopped basil and spoon in ricotta into the remaining sauce 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 the shredded mozzarella and 1/2 of the grated parmesan. Add the remaining pasta and top with the 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 for 1-2 minutes to brown the cheese. Let cool for 5 minutes, then garnish with basil if desired and serve.

Nutrition Per Serving

469kcal Calories44g Carbs34g Protein17g Fat10g Saturated Fat80mg Cholesterol1307mg Sodium765mg Potassium4g Fiber7g Sugar991IU Vitamin A10mg Vitamin C498mg Calcium3mg Iron
Nutrition Facts
Baked Ziti (Easy Pasta Casserole) VIDEO
Amount per Serving
Calories
469
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
17
g
26
%
Saturated Fat
 
10
g
63
%
Cholesterol
 
80
mg
27
%
Sodium
 
1307
mg
57
%
Potassium
 
765
mg
22
%
Carbohydrates
 
44
g
15
%
Fiber
 
4
g
17
%
Sugar
 
7
g
8
%
Protein
 
34
g
68
%
Vitamin A
 
991
IU
20
%
Vitamin C
 
10
mg
12
%
Calcium
 
498
mg
50
%
Iron
 
3
mg
17
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: baked ziti, baked ziti recipe
Skill Level: Easy
Cost to Make: $$
Calories: 469

Natasha Kravchuk

Welcome to my kitchen! I am Natasha, the blogger behind Natasha's Kitchen (since 2009). My husband and I run this blog together and share only our best, family approved and tested recipes with YOU. Thanks for stopping by! We are so happy you're here.

Read more posts by Natasha

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Recipe Rating




Comments

  • Melanie Webb
    May 20, 2024

    Best ziti recipe! Thank you for your tutorials, you make cooking fun 😍

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      May 20, 2024

      You’re so welcome, Melanie! I’m so glad the videos helped!

      Reply

  • Inga
    April 28, 2024

    Hi Natasha,
    My family and I love this recipe! We already cooked it twice. Inga.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      April 28, 2024

      That’s wonderful, Inga!

      Reply

  • Jennifer Sorenson
    April 24, 2024

    I will make this recipe and freeze it to serve at a graduation party. I plan to double the recipe and cook it in a large disposable aluminum pan. Should I increase the cooking time in the oven?

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      April 24, 2024

      Hi Jennifer. It could take a little more time, depending on how thick you layer the Ziti and how deep the pan is. Keep an eye on it in the oven, the cheese will be melted and start to bubble slightly with some browning on top when it’s ready. Then you can do the last step and broil for a few mins for additional browning.

      Reply

  • Jeannie
    March 12, 2024

    My family and I Absolutely love this recipe!! I just add a little more sauce and chopped peppers. It’s fantastic, definitely a favorite in my house!!

    Reply

  • Toni Potestio
    February 18, 2024

    Let me start by saying I love to watch your videos and try your recipes. I have to say however that I did not care for this one, nor did my family. I would have rather taken & mixed together the ricotta, cheeses, 1 egg, parsley, garlic powder and dolloped it throughout the sauced pasta, then covered with an Italian blend of cheeses on top for the crust. Mixing the ricotta in the sauce, then tossing pasta with it, did not look appeasing and tasted very bland. I would not make this recipe the way you call for it to be made again. Sorry ☹️

    Reply

    • Natasha
      February 20, 2024

      Hi Toni, this is a pretty classic way to make baked ziti – one thing is make sure you aren’t adding more pasta than is called for which can overwhelm the dish, soak up the sauce and make it turn out bland.

      Reply

  • Erica Ens
    February 16, 2024

    I love all your recipes and am looking forward to cooking this one. Your notes say you can assemble a day ahead and bake the next day or bake it and reheat the next day. Which is better in your opinion?

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      February 16, 2024

      Hi Erica! I’ve done it both ways and both ways work great. It tends to be a little bit more dry when reheated because the noodles absorb more of the sauce.

      Reply

  • LaRhesa Ragan
    January 28, 2024

    Followed the recipe to a T and it’s just awful! Literally my husband and I cannot eat it. It’s dry and gritty from the mushy ricotta.

    Reply

    • Natasha
      January 29, 2024

      Hi LaRhesa, I’m sorry to hear it didn’t hit the mark for you. I haven’t had this turn out dry or gritty before – did you change anything about the proportions in the recipe? Maybe there was too much pasta for the amount of sauce? The pasta absorbs some of the sauce especially as it bakes in the oven so it’s important to use the right balance of sauce to pasta. Also, overcooking the pasta can result in a dry and mushy casserole. I hope that helps to troubleshoot.

      Reply

  • Isabel McCluskey
    January 28, 2024

    It’s in the oven!!!! With your guidance all the way, it makes it soooo easy! Thank you!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      January 28, 2024

      It’s my pleasure. Hope you’ll love it!

      Reply

  • Sherry
    January 28, 2024

    I love casseroles..
    So easy & reliable to send to school..
    Came out great..
    Thx Natasha🥰

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      January 28, 2024

      Glad to hear that it was a success!

      Reply

  • mikitta
    January 16, 2024

    I was just asking my co-workers today what I should make for supper. Then I checked my Email and found a new, easy recipe from Natasha!

    Guess what we had for dinner! It was delicious and now my daughter and I have work lunches and quick dinners for a few days.

    Thank you for another awesome meal, Natasha!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      January 17, 2024

      That’s so wonferful to hear! Thank you for sharing that with us, glad that it was a huge hit.

      Reply

  • Chris
    January 16, 2024

    How can I print the recipe? I sent the recipe to my email but it looks like I have to watch the video again. I have watched and now want a printed copy to work from in the kitchen.

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      January 16, 2024

      Hi Chris, The print friendly recipe is at the bottom of each post. Once you scroll there, click on the print icon in that recipe card which will open a print screen, then you would need to click file & print. I hope that helps! If not, please let me know exactly what steps you are taking and where you are navigating to print our recipes.

      Reply

  • Carole
    January 16, 2024

    Hi Natasha, I was admiring the pot you used to boil your pasta. Would you happen to have a link? Thanks 🙂

    Reply

  • Mary
    January 4, 2024

    Hello Natasha,
    I’m looking to times this recipe by “4” for a large gathering.
    I’m sure the ingredients are going to be quite hot when I put it together.
    Is it OK that the mozzarella cheese will be melting before I get it in the refrigerator?
    Thinking to make two lbs. for the bottom layer and then make an additional 2 lbs. for the top in a large pasta pan.

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      January 4, 2024

      Why you’re feeding a crowd Mary! I imagine that may work! I hope everyone loves this recipe.

      Reply

  • Mary M
    December 19, 2023

    Hi Natasha,
    I mistakenly bought small curd cottage cheese. Will it still taste okay? I do like cottage cheese better than ricotta. So I’m considering using it anyway.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      December 19, 2023

      Hi Mary! It should be fine. It won’t taste quite like it does with Ricotta cheese but it will still be good.

      Reply

  • Laurie
    December 17, 2023

    Great video!! Thank you! My question is your marina sauce makes three cups but the Ziti recipe calls for 5 cups of sauce. Do you need to also buy sauce to supplement that?

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      December 17, 2023

      Thank you. You can double it up, that’s what we do.

      Reply

  • Zory
    September 8, 2023

    Hi natasha, Can I bake it straight from being frozen? If yea how would I do it?

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      September 8, 2023

      Hi Zory, see my note above for instructions. I recommended thawing in the refrigerator and then baking. You can likely bake from frozen too but it will take longer.

      Reply

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