Baked Ziti is easy to make and even easier to enjoy! Make your Baked Ziti recipe with meat, or vegetarian, or mix it up. This Baked Ziti is the BEST!
Baked Ziti is in my blood and my Italian grandmother would be proud of this baked ziti recipe! We always use ricotta in our baked ziti for the creamiest richest baked ziti you’ll find anywhere. I like to make several pans of baked ziti at a time and freeze them! Make sure to serve it with garlic knots, antipasto salad, and caramel cheesecake for dessert!
Baked Ziti – How to Make the BEST Baked Ziti
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Baked Ziti Ingredients
- Ziti – Baked ziti is of course made with the ziti pasta, but honestly if you don’t have ziti or can’t find it at your market, any shape noodle (even spaghetti!) will work just fine.
- Spaghetti Sauce – Make sure you’re using spaghetti sauce, not tomato sauce. Plain tomato sauce will not give this recipe the same flavor. I love to use a roasted garlic sauce to add a little extra oompf. Sometimes I’ll use my blender spaghetti sauce!
- Ricotta Cheese – It’s not baked ziti without ricotta cheese. And no, please don’t substitute cottage cheese for ricotta. I don’t care what your Aunt Suzie says, they’re not the same!
- Mozzarella Cheese – If you have the time, I always suggest shredding your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheese has anti caking powder in it which doesn’t allow the cheese to melt quite as well. If you’re in a pinch though (or just don’t want to do it yourself) the pre-shredded will still taste delicious.
- Fillings and Toppings – The preferred filling and topping in our house is pepperoni, but we also love spinach, sausage, mushrooms, olives, artichoke hearts, sweet peppers, and bacon!
- Garnish – We like to top our baked ziti with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil
How Do You Make Baked Ziti (Step-by-step)
⭐ First, in a large oven safe skillet or casserole dish combine ziti, spaghetti sauce, ricotta cheese, mix-ins, and 1 cup mozzarella cheese.
⭐ Then, mix well, and top with remaining three cups of mozzarella and toppings (we used pepperoni slices).
⭐ Next, bake until cheese is melted and bubbly.
⭐ Finally, garnish with fresh basil Parmesan!
What is Baked Ziti
Baked Ziti is an Italian-American noodle casserole dish. Here are your most frequently asked questions (and answers!) about ‘what is baked ziti.’
What Ingredients Do You Need?
The ingredients you need for Baked Ziti are ziti noodles, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, and any mix-ins or garnishes you like.
Is Baked Ziti Italian
Baked is Italian-American cuisine. Baked ziti is a casserole dish made with ziti pasta, cheese, and sauce. It is a form of pasta al forno.
Generally, the ziti is cooked separately while a tomato and cheese sauce is prepared, which can also include meat, sausage, mushrooms, peppers, onions, spinach, olives, or a host of other delicious ingredients.
Is Baked Ziti Penne
Baked ziti is not penne. Penne and ziti noodles are similar in size and shape and can be used interchangeably if on or the other is difficult to locate.
Ziti is a smooth round hollow cylinder shaped pasta with flattened ends, while penne typically has ridges and is cut at an angle.
Baked Ziti is simple to prepare and makes a great quick dinner option. Add it to your meal plan for those crazy busy nights!
How Do You Make the Best Baked Ziti
The best baked ziti is made with ricotta cheese, freshly shredded whole milk mozzarella, and and a good flavorful tomato sauce. The quality of ingredients used in this recipe will make all the difference between a passable meal and one you’d be proud to serve to guests.
Do You Cover Baked Ziti
You do not need to cover baked ziti in the oven unless you’re using an upper rack. If you are using your oven to cook multiple dishes and the ziti is on the top rack, go ahead and cover it to avoid burning the cheese.
Otherwise it is fine to cook uncovered and will give you a beautiful browned crusty layer on top.
Can I Make Baked Ziti the Day Before
You can make Baked Ziti the day before and store it in the refrigerator. Pre-made baked ziti can be stored in the fridge for up to two days.
We suggest not baking it until the day you’re going to eat it for the best results.
Leftovers and Storage
Baked Ziti should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer both before and after preparation. Here are a few of the most common questions and answers about storing Baked Ziti.
How Long Can Baked Ziti Sit Out
Baked Ziti can sit out unrefrigerated, at room temperature, for up to two hours. If it sits out any longer than that, it should be thrown away.
It is a general rule of thumb that food should not be left out at room temperature longer than two hours as it can begin to grow dangerous bacteria.
How Long Can Baked Ziti Stay in the Fridge
Baked Ziti can stay in the fridge about 3 – 5 days after it has been prepared and baked. If you’re refrigerating it after putting it together but before baking, you’ll want to bake it within 1 – 2 days.
Can Baked Ziti Be Frozen
Baked Ziti can be frozen. We like to make several batches of Baked Ziti at one time and then freeze them for quick dinners later. Wrap tightly in foil or cling wrap before freezing to avoid freezer burn.
Frozen Baked Ziti will be good for 1 – 3 months in a standard upright refrigerator or 6 – 12 months in a deep freezer or chest freezer. These also make great emergency meals to bring to friends and family who need help from the community.
Can Baked Ziti Be Frozen Before Baking
Baked Ziti can be frozen before baking. We prefer to freeze ours after it has been assembled but before it is baked for the best flavor results. If you won’t have access to an oven though, you’ll want to bake it before freezing. You cannot bake this in the microwave, but it can be reheated in a microwave.
Can I Make Baked Ziti Ahead of Time
You can make Baked Ziti ahead of time. If you’re going to make it more than two days ahead, we suggest wrapping it tightly in cling wrap or foil and freezing. You can cook the ziti from frozen (add 30 – 45 minutes to the cook time), or allow it to thaw and then cook as normal.
Is Baked Ziti Healthy
Baked Ziti is not healthy. Baked Ziti contains roughly 300 calories for a 1 cup serving when using full fat and full calorie ingredients.
If you wanted to make it lower fat and calorie you could use fat free or reduced fat cheese, as well as bulking it up with a lot of vegetables. Be careful when adding vegetables as they will give off moisture and adding too much can result in a runny dish.
I personally prefer to think of Baked Ziti as a delicious occasional indulgence that is part of an otherwise well rounded diet.
What to Serve with Baked Ziti
More Like Baked Ziti
Baked Ziti Making Tools
- Santuko knife – My favorite knife for cutting vegetables! This knife is the perfect size and shape, handles great, and is super reasonably priced. Also, I just love that it’s fun and colorful!
- Garlic press – Need fresh minced or sliced garlic, but don’t want to peel or chop your garlic? This garlic press is the bessssssst. We’ve had ours for as long as I can remember (maybe a wedding present?), and I use it several times a week!
- Le Creuset braising pan – We talked a little bit about this one already. It’s the pumped up version of the Calphalon everyday pan. A little heavier, a little taller, a little nicer. And if you have a little more money to spend, then this is for sure the one to get. It’s a beautiful pan that you’ll use day in and day out.
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How to Make Baked Ziti
- 1 pound ziti cooked and drained
- 1 jar about 24 ounces spaghetti sauce
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 6 ounces pepperoni (or other mix-in) about 1 1/2 cups, chopped (reserve some for the top!)
- 4 cups mozzarella cheese divided into 1 cup and 3 cups
- optional: fresh basil for garnish
- In a large oven safe skillet or roasting pan (I like to use the same skillet I prepared the noodles in) combine ziti, spaghetti sauce, ricotta cheese, chopped pepperoni (or other mix-ins), and 3 cups mozzarella cheese.
- Mix well, then top with remaining cup of mozzarella (and if using, pepperoni slices).
- Bake at 425 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.
- NOTE: If you're preparing a previously frozen dish or your noodles are cold, cover with foil and bake at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 10 - 15.
- Garnish with fresh basil and ENJOY!
Baked Ziti – How to Make the BEST Baked Ziti
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This Baked Ziti was originally partnered effort. All content belongs to Mama Loves Food.
Kelly @ Texas Type A Mom says
This is such a clever recipe – I love the surprise that it's pasta! Had me fooled! It looks delish! #client
Tayler Ross says
We tried this recipe tonight and OMG was it delicious! Definitely making again soon!
I’ve been hunting for a good baked ziti recipe for a long time. This isn’t just good, it’s outstanding!!!
Deb Carmicheal says
I LOVE Ziti !! Can’t wait to make this . It will be great on a cold wintery night here in Indiana.