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Easy Baked Ziti Recipe

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This yummy baked ziti recipe makes the most delicious family dinner

This Baked Ziti recipe might be a life-saver. Or at least, a reputation maker. It is the best family dinner recipe. And it is simple to make.

Since life is crazy-busy for most of us, it’s tempting to do a fast grab for take-out on those days when appetites are big and energy is small. But that gets expensive and it’s not always convenient.

Quick and easy Baked Ziti to the rescue! And I might be playing favorites here but I think this mostly one-pot recipe is the perfect pasta casserole. But if you are looking for options, check out my easy lasagna casserole.

Easy Baked Ziti Recipe

You can make it without meat, but my preferred way is to make this Baked Ziti with ground beef. Add tomato spaghetti sauce plus a few spices.

And then there’s parmesan, mozzarella and ricotta cheese—or even make it a five-cheese dish. Oh, the delicious decadence!

(Try this Easy Chicken and Dumplings recipe for another family favorite!)

What is ziti?

First up, ziti is pronounced zee-tee.

Ziti is a pasta similar to penne but ziti is a medium-sized, tubular, hollow pasta. The texture is smooth and the edges are square-cut (penne rigate has ridges, although penne lisce does not—then it’s called mostaccioli).

And where does that name ziti come from?

It’s an Italian word. “Zita” means bride and “zito” means bridegroom. In Naples, ziti is a classic pasta dish often served at weddings.

Italians know good food and hearts full of love seem to go together.

Bowl of Cooked Ziti Besides Tomato Sauce

What is baked ziti?

Bottom line: Baked Ziti is a classic pasta dish with meat, sauce and cheese. It is like lasagna…but not quite the same.

I think the biggest difference is the noodles. The final result has more to do with texture rather than flavor….which ends up giving Baked Ziti an unique taste.

Unlike the similar pasta, penne, which is sometimes baked but sometimes cooked, ziti is always baked.

The truth is, I am not a purist and I tend to use whatever noodles I have on hand for this recipe. I’ve used rigatoni (which is a typically a little wider than ziti or penne), penne, and ziti. They are all good.

Another variation on this type of pasta dish is this baked spaghetti.

Baked Ziti Ingredients You Will Need

  • 16 oz box of ziti
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce (or use this homemade tomato sauce recipe)
  • 8-oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1.5 cups of mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

In addition to the ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese I already talked about, you might try adding Romano, provolone, fontina, cottage cheese, swiss cheese, or even cream cheese.

Some like adding healthy veggies. The spicy tomato sauce does do something wonderful for spinach, zucchini, carrots, broccoli, roasted red peppers, diced tomatoes, or Portobello mushrooms.

Play around with spices, too. Try rosemary, basil, parsley, or Italian seasoning in addition to red pepper flakes.

How do you make baked ziti?

Begin making this wonder by boiling six ounces of ziti until al dente, about seven minutes or according to the box directions. Drain and set aside.

Brown the ground beef, chopped onion, and minced garlic. Then stir in the spaghetti and tomato sauces and add oregano. Bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Add about a cup of the beef and sauce mix to the cooked ziti and pour about half of this combination into a greased baking dish. Top it with the ricotta cheese and the cup of mozzarella cheese and another cup of the meat and tomato sauce mixture. Now it’s time to spoon the remaining ziti and meat sauce in.

Cover it with foil and bake at 350 degrees for twenty minutes.

Sprinkle the remaining half cup of mozzarella and the half cup of parmesan cheese over the top and return to the oven for another ten minutes.

How long do you bake ziti?

This baked ziti recipe takes thirty minutes plus prep time.

You’ll have time to make this simple caesar salad, set the table, and put your feet up for a few minutes while it’s in the oven. If you’re feeling like an overachiever, make sure you pair this meal with these cheese biscuits or beer bread. Finish it off with this super easy blueberry cobbler for dessert!

Spoonful of Baked Ziti Above Casserole Dish

Can you make baked ziti the day before?

Certainly! Just remember to allow for extra baking time since it will be coming from the cold refrigerator.

Also, you can freeze any leftovers for a future meal, or you can even freeze Baked Ziti before baking. I think it’s best to pull it out of the freezer the day before you want to eat it, so it can thaw but just adjust the baking time if you forget.

For this recipe, I do like to cover it with foil for the first twenty minutes in the oven. I think it gives the final dish a luscious creaminess. It also makes the casserole dish easier to clean! Removing the foil in the final ten minutes browns things just enough. However, some prefer a crustier top on their Baked Ziti. If that’s you, simply forego the aluminum foil.

Baked Ziti is delicious, quick, and simple—perfect for a short-on-time family meal. We usually add a fresh-greens salad and sometimes even a little garlic bread. Yum!

In our house we always have some leftovers too—it’s just the thing for a quick lunch that can be warmed up in the microwave.

And you don’t have to save it just for family.  Something this good ought to be shared!

So, add this Baked Ziti recipe to your menu repertoire. The ingredients are on the easy to keep-on-hand list. I’m guessing on some busy nights you might not only call this Baked Ziti recipe delicious—you might call it a life-saver.

More Easy Dinner Recipes You Will Love:

Easy Baked Ziti

This yummy pasta recipe is the perfect hearty meal.
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: baked ziti recipe
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 263kcal


  • 16 oz. box of ziti
  • ½ pound of ground beef
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce
  • 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 15 oz. of ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup of parmesan cheese
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • 1 cup of mozzarella cheese +
  • ½ cup of mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cloves of garlic


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cook ziti and set aside
  • On medium heat cook beef, onion, and garlic until beef is browned
  • Stir in sauces and oregano, and keep on heat until mixture starts to boil
  • Combine 1 cup of beef/sauce mixture with cooked ziti
  • Spoon in ½ of ziti mixture into a large baking dish
  • Top with ricotta and 1 cup of mozzarella and 1 cup of sauce
  • Spoon in the rest of the ziti mixture and top with the rest of the sauce
  • Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes
  • Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and remaining mozzarella
  • Bake uncovered for 10 minutes



Calories: 263kcal
Tried this recipe?Follow me on Pinterest @spaceshipslb



easy baked ziti recipe

Stephanie Keeping

Stephanie is in love with a boy named Sam. He has taught her that it's okay to jump first and look later, to wear a dirty shirt to the park and to decide that today is a good day to take a nap in your rubber boots. She hangs out here blogging at Spaceships and Laser Beams and at our printable party shop on Etsy.


    1. Avatar

      Hannah Griffin

      May 15, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      This makes the perfect easy family dinner! My family is in love with it!

    2. Avatar


      May 16, 2018 at 10:55 pm

      I love my ziti recipe, but I will definitely be trying this version! It looks a little bit more layered and rich. Thank you for sharing this – visiting from Waste Not Wednesday.

    3. Avatar

      Tin Lopez

      May 21, 2018 at 2:09 am

      This recipe was so delicious!

    4. Avatar


      December 7, 2018 at 10:57 am

      I need pan dimensions – I am not used to cooking for a crowd and have no idea if this is 9×13 or larger.

      • Layne Henderson

        Layne Henderson

        December 7, 2018 at 2:30 pm

        Hi, Brenda – it’s a 9 x 13. Hope you enjoy the recipe!

    5. Avatar


      February 1, 2019 at 7:55 pm

      This was so simple and definitely a hit with my family!

    6. Avatar


      February 9, 2019 at 2:30 pm

      Delicious and very moist and hearty my family enjoyed this meal served with a side of Texas toast I recommend this meal to anyone with a busy schedule it is bonapetite 👌👌👌

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