This easy 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.
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.
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. You can make it without meat or, even, make a delicious baked ziti with chicken, 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.
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 24-ounce 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
The full recipe is at the end of the post. You can print the recipe card, too!
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.
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.
Note: 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.
While it is baking, 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!
Can you freeze baked ziti?
You can freeze baked ziti, however it is 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.
Add this Baked Ziti recipe to your menu repertoire. The ingredients are easy to keep-on-hand for busy nights.
More Easy Dinner Recipes You Will Love:
- Best Ever Goulash
- Classic Meatloaf
- Cowboy Casserole— a favorite for kids!
- Simple Lasagna
- Oven Beef Stew – made in a baking pan!!!
- Spaghetti Pie
Easy Baked Ziti
- 16 oz. box of ziti
- ½ pound of ground beef
- 1 24-ounce 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