Baked Ziti

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Far less fussy than lasagna but just as cheesy and comforting, this meaty Baked Ziti casserole calls for just 15 minutes of prep time. Then all that’s left to do is bake the pasta entree, pour a glass of Italian wine, and dig in.

A pan of baked ziti with a spoon in it.


 

This Baked Ziti casserole delivers all the same flavors and comfort food vibes of your favorite lasagna recipe, just without all the layering and stress. Simply boil the noodles, incorporate those with the sauce, top with cheese, and bake until bubbly.

Recipe Ingredients

Labeled ingredients for baked ziti.

Ingredient notes

  • Ziti: Penne or any other small tubular pasta works perfectly as well.
  • Italian sausage: Or substitute ground beef or a mix of both.
  • Granulated sugar: Sugar works like a charm to balance the acidity of the tomatoes, but everyone likes different things. Feel free to omit it entirely or add as much as 2 tablespoons.
  • Crushed red pepper flakes: Omit if you don’t like the spice. Add more if you do!

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish with olive oil. In a large stockpot, bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente. Drain well.
Cooked ziti in a colander.
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add garlic cloves and sauté until browned, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove garlic and discard. Add sausage and cook until just starting to brown, breaking up clumps with a wooden spoon, about 3 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, sugar, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper). Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Meat sauce in a silver skillet.
  1. To the sauce, add the cooked pasta and stir to combine. Add cubed mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper (if using) and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish.
Ziti and meat sauce in a silver pot.
  1. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking dish. Cover the top of the pasta with the sliced mozzarella and sprinkle evenly with the remaining Parmesan.
Baked ziti in a white baking dish before being baked.
  1. Bake until lightly browned and hot, about 30 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.
Baked ziti in a white baking dish.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: As written, this Baked Ziti is made in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish and is enough for 10 dinner portions.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: You can make this recipe up to 3 days in advance and keep it in the refrigerator, or you can freeze the unbaked ziti casserole (wrapped in a few layers of foil) for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight and then bake as directed in the recipe.
  • Meatless main: While I’ll always crave the sausage or beef version, you could certainly trade in 2 cups of chopped, sautéed mushrooms if you’re vegetarian or don’t have meat on hand.
  • More pasta dishes: Try creamy Rigatoni with Sausage or One Pot Pizza Pasta Bake for quick pasta dinners ready in 30 minutes or less.
Two plates of baked ziti next to a pan of baked ziti.

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A pan of baked ziti with a spoon in it.

Baked Ziti

Far less fussy than lasagna but just as cheesy and comforting, this meaty Baked Ziti casserole calls for just 15 minutes of prep time. Then all that's left to do is bake the pasta entree, pour a glass of Italian wine, and dig in.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 10 servings
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Calories 488
5 from 1 vote

Ingredients 

For the ziti:

For the topping:

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish with olive oil. In a large stockpot, bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain well.
  • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add garlic cloves and sauté until browned, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove garlic and discard. Add sausage and cook until just starting to brown, breaking up clumps with a wooden spoon, about 3 minutes.
  • Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, sugar, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper). Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  • To the sauce, add the cooked pasta and stir to combine. Add cubed mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper (if using) and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish.
  • Cover the top of the pasta with the sliced mozzarella and sprinkle evenly with the remaining Parmesan. Bake until lightly browned and hot, about 30 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Ziti: Penne or any other small tubular pasta works perfectly as well.
  2. Italian sausage: Or substitute ground beef or a mix of both.
  3. Granulated sugar: Sugar works like a charm to balance the acidity of the tomatoes, but everyone likes different things. Feel free to omit it entirely or add as much as 2 tablespoons.
  4. Crushed red pepper flakes: Omit if you don’t like the spice. Add more if you do!
  5. Yield: As written, this Baked Ziti is made in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish and is enough for 10 dinner portions.
  6. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  7. Make ahead: You can make this recipe up to 3 days in advance and keep it in the refrigerator, or you can freeze the unbaked ziti casserole (wrapped in a few layers of foil) for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight and then bake as directed in the recipe.
  8. Meatless main: While I’ll always crave the sausage or beef version, you could certainly trade in 2 cups of chopped, sautéed mushrooms if you’re vegetarian or don’t have meat on-hand.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 servingCalories: 488kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 24gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 12gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 701mgPotassium: 264mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 378IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 311mgIron: 1mg
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Comments

  1. Wonderful dish! I used 2 8 X8 casserole dishes and froze one for a later time. The crushed red pepper flakes added a nice kick but don’t add too much! Will definitely make this again!5 stars