Baked Ziti is one of the pasta recipes that checks all the boxes for a delicious family meal. It’s delicious enough for company and always a favorite for Sunday supper. We use prepared marinara and a super-easy meatball recipe to keep it simplified and convenient!
I love the mini meatballs in the cheesy sauce- flavor explosions in each bite. A scoop of this delicious ziti pasta bake, a nice green salad, and a crusty chunk of bread might be the closest thing to culinary heaven I can think of! Full of classic Italian flavors, Baked Ziti always gets rave reviews, and everyone always wants seconds!
Let’s get started!
Topping the list of what I love about Baked Ziti is the hearty, Italian flavor. You can’t have a good baked Italian pasta dish that doesn’t deliver on taste, and this recipe has it in spades! Of course, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Here are some other things I love about Baked Ziti
- Mini meatballs!
- Feeds a crowd
- The cheesy, meaty sauce
- The ‘WOW’ I get when I put it on the table
This is a nice and easy Baked Ziti Recipe. There’s nothing fancy about it except the taste! Here are a few more tips!
Cooking the pasta- I can’t stress enough that you need to follow good pasta prep techniques. You don’t want to end up with pasta mush at the end of the bake. Boil just to al dente and no rinsing!
Searing the meatballs- I use vegetable oil, generally canola, because of its high smoke point which makes it very safe to take to high heat. You want it HOT before you put your meatballs in! It should sizzle like crazy when the meat hits it. This quick cook seals in the flavor and moisture of the meatballs and is absolutely essential!
Baked Ziti Recipe Ingredient Notes
No time to make meatballs? No worries! Frozen cocktail meatballs are a great shortcut for this Baked Ziti Recipe.
Most jars of marinara sauce are 24 ounces, so 2 jars should do it. You might have a little left over. Put it in a ziplock bag and freeze it. It’ll be great dipping sauce for another time!
Ricotta: I use whole milk ricotta because I like the creaminess. If you don’t like ricotta, you can substitute a small curd, full-fat cottage cheese.
Pasta: I like Ziti for this pasta bake. It’s strong and sturdy and holds up well to mixing and baking. Other short cut pastas like penne or rigatoni are good options as well.
Ziti Pasta Storing Tips
Leftover Ziti Pasta will keep in a well-sealed container for 3 days. I suggest storing in a glass container to prevent the tomato sauce from reacting with the pan.
Can You Freeze This?
Baked Ziti freezes beautifully! I prefer to freeze it unbaked. Simply assemble as directed and allow to cool completely. Wrap well with cling wrap and foil. It will hold for about 3 months. You can freeze it baked or freeze leftovers- if there are any. The pasta texture isn’t quite as nice on a second go through the oven, but it’s still delish!
How To Make Baked Ziti Ahead Of Time
You can make this up to 3 days ahead of time and store it in the fridge. Simply assemble as directed, but don’t bake it. Wrap it in cling wrap or use a tight-fitting lid. Pop it in the oven when you’re ready for it! If coming straight from the fridge, cook time will be increased.
How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge?
3 days is a good rule of thumb for fridge storage for this pasta bake.
From pasta salads to pasta bakes, variations on pasta creations abound. Their ‘anything goes’ flexibility is one of the things I love best about them. You can add, subtract, or substitute just about anything and you’ll still end up with something yummy!
Can I Make Baked Ziti With Sour Cream?
I really prefer the cheesy creaminess of ricotta, but you can make Baked Ziti with sour cream. A lot of recipes that include sour cream have layers. So, with this recipe, you could layer half the pasta mixture, spread on the sour cream, and then put on the rest of the pasta. Top with cheese and bake as directed.
Can I Make This Baked Ziti Vegetarian?
You can certainly make Baked Ziti vegetarian by simply omitting the beef. You can add bulk to the dish by adding mushrooms, zucchini, or any of your favorite veggies. If you’re looking for meat-free pasta bakes, I have to recommend my Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno. It’s the ultimate in cheesy, creamy indulgence, and you’ll never miss the meat!
- 1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
- 2 eggs large, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 3/4 cup Romano cheese grated, divided
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley chopped
- 1 pound ground beef
- 3/4 teaspoon salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to taste
- all-purpose flour for dredging
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 pound dried ziti
- 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves julienned
- 5 cups marinara sauce
- 3 cups whole milk ricotta
- 2 cups mozzarella, shredded
- 1/2 cup parmesan, grated
- 6 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix together bread crumbs, eggs, milk, 1/2 cup Romano, and parsley in a large mixing bowl. Add beef, salt, and black pepper and mix until everything is evenly combined, being careful not to overwork the beef.
Roll mixture into cocktail size meatballs then roll each one into flour then shaking off the excess.
Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat, in a large skillet, almost to smoking. Brown the meatballs in batches so as not to crowd the skillet. Continue to cook until all sides of the meatballs are brown. Remove browned meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate.
Cook ziti in well-salted water, according to package instructions, just to al dente. Drain. Do not rinse.
Mix basil, marinara sauce, and ricotta in a large bowl until combined. Add pasta and meatballs and gently fold until evenly combined.
Pour into a large baking dish and sprinkle the top evenly with mozzarella, Parmesan and remaining Romano. Dot with butter. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until the ziti is bubbly and the crust is golden. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Fans Also Made:
This easy Baked Ziti is at the top of my list of Pasta Recipes, but I’ve got lots more! Ziti is a great pasta to use with a variety of different sauces and ingredients. Here are a few of my favorites!
- Baked Ziti With Ricotta
- Baked Ziti With Meat
- Baked Ziti With Sausage
Baked Ziti has all the hallmarks of a great recipe, and I know it’s going to become a regular in your dinner rotation. I love the simple prep that translates to such an amazingly delicious, hearty meal. I can’t wait to hear how it works for you! Be sure to leave a comment below!
Source: Adapted Slightly From Giada De Laurentiis