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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.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 10 servings
Calories 488kcal


For the ziti:

  • 1 pound ziti or other small, tubular pasta (see note 1)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage (see note 2)
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes undrained
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar optional (see note 3)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup Parmesean cheese grated
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese cut into 1/4 inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional (see note 4)

For the topping:

  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • fresh parsley minced, for garnish


  • 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 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 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, 1/2 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.



  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.


Calories: 488kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 74mg | Sodium: 701mg | Potassium: 264mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 378IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 311mg | Iron: 1mg