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Easy baked ziti recipe cooked and being served into a bowl. This baked ziti recipe is so classic and delicious and the perfect make ahead weeknight meal. You can totally make your own sauce but you can also buy a great quality jar from the store to keep things simple. We love this jarred marinara sauce. I added a little bit of diced bell pepper to this easy baked pasta. It adds nice texture to the dish. You can totally omit it though, and make this dish even more simple.

This easy Baked Ziti recipe is great because food doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive and this dish is neither of those things. It’s so comforting, so tasty and feeds a crowd. It also makes really great leftovers the next day. It reheats really well, especially since we’ve made ours pretty saucy. You don’t have to worry about this dish drying out.

What’s Baked Ziti?

Baked Ziti is a classic American Italian dish. It is made in a casserole dish, and typically uses a tomato sauce, and cheese, as well as other ingredients to suit your taste. It is prepared with cooked ziti pasta, and then baked in the oven.

Make Ahead

This recipe is great because you can make it ahead of time. You can prepare everything and place it in the casserole dish and then just simply skip the baking. Tightly wrap it and place it in the refrigerator for up to three days. Then simply bake it in the oven when you are ready.

Can you freeze Baked Ziti?

You can easily freeze Baked Ziti for a quick weeknight dinner. All you have to do is assemble everything into the casserole dish and top it with the cheese. Then just cover it and stick it in the freezer, and it will keep for up to three months. It’s important to remember to freeze the casserole PREBAKE.

How long do you cook Baked Ziti for?

We recommend you cook it in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. If you have made the recipe ahead of time and have frozen it, we recommend you add an additional 20 to 30 minutes of baking time, or just look out for the cheese to brown and bubble.

Should I cover Baked Ziti in the oven?

Our recipe doesn’t call for your to cover your casserole dish when you are baking it. However, if you find that the top of your oven runs especially hot, and your cheese is getting a little too dark on the top, you can loosely cover the casserole with aluminum foil to prevent the casserole from getting burned.

Variations

There are so many variations that can be made with this baked ziti! I often like to swap the Italian sausage out for a turkey sausage or even sautéed mushrooms for a vegetarian option. You can also add some cream to your marinara for a creamier pasta bake. Occasionally I also make a variation with some sautéed spinach or even some sautéed kale to get some greens in there.

If you’re as big a fan of baked pastas as we are, you’ll love our Chicken Alfredo Lasagna Roll Ups or our Baked Turkey Sausage and Mascarpone Stuffed Shells. Enjoy!

A close up of the ziti and cheese in an easy baked ziti recipe.


Baked Ziti

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr
Servings: 8

  Equipment  

  • casserole dish

  Ingredients  

  • 12 ounces rigatoni pasta
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 spicy Italian sausages casings removed
  • ½ yellow onion diced
  • 1 green bell pepper seeded and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 ½ cups marinara sauce homemade or store bought
  • 1 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese divided
  • ½ cup parmesan grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

  Instructions  

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add a small handful of salt and pasta to water and stir. Boil pasta for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until pasta is al dente. Drain, toss with a teaspoon of oil, pour into a large mixing bowl.
  • Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a large sauté pan and place over medium- high heat. Add sausage and break apart with a wooden spoon. Cook sausage for about 5 minutes or until evenly browned. Drain and add to pasta.
  • Discard grease and add remaining oil to pan. Add onion, bell peppers and garlic to pan and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour onion mixture over sausage and pasta mixture and toss together.
  • Add marinara, ½ cup mozzarella and ¼ cup parmesan and gently fold together until fully incorporated. Adjust seasonings.
  • Pour mixture into a lightly greased 8”x 8” baking dish and top with remaining mozzarella and parmesan.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese bubbles and browns.
  • Allow ziti to cool for 5 to 7 minutes before serving.

  Notes  

Freeze Ahead: Make recipe through step #6. Place baking dish in freezer until completely frozen. Tightly cover with foil or plastic wrap and store in freezer until ready to use. When ready to use, preheat oven to 350˚F. Uncover ziti and bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until heated through and cheese on top has melted. Serve.
Calories: 442kcal Carbohydrates: 40g Protein: 19g Fat: 23g Saturated Fat: 8g Cholesterol: 45mg Sodium: 1059mg Potassium: 609mg Fiber: 3g Sugar: 7g Vitamin A: 635IU Vitamin C: 21mg Calcium: 218mg Iron: 2mg
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  1. Mary @ Bake Break Not Specified Not Specified

    I’m totally with you on the heavy winter foods: all. year. long. The scarfs aren’t an issue here in Montana – I can wear them all year and nobody bats an eye! Haha! There are plenty of cute, light, summery scarves – I have no doubt you’ll be fine.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  2. Amy Not Specified Not Specified

    5 stars
    Yum this was fantastic. Right now my office is freezing, and it makes me want a heaping pile of this pasta!

    I’m a sweater girl too – I just get light sweaters to layer over dresses and flats for the warmer weather.

    xoxo,

    mon amy

  3. Nicole {Sweet Peony} Not Specified Not Specified

    5 stars
    So pretty I might die. Gorgeous, cheesy, yummmm!

  4. Megan Not Specified Not Specified

    I want pasta always and ice cream always too. I totally get it. This looks so good, too! I’m hungry knowing it exists. :)

  5. Emily (New York, NY) Not Specified Not Specified

    5 stars
    Sooo cheesy – yummm!! When I was younger and eating my mothers home cooked meals every night (ohh I long for those days sometimes) ziti night was my faveee! And I so get you on that no light spring/summer food – I’m all about that! I like “real” food (haha).

  6. Amanda Not Specified Not Specified

    I feel the same way about having to ditch my scarf…I hate it! I kinda feel naked without it.

  7. ileana Not Specified Not Specified

    I live in Florida. But I love scarves! and I wish I had more opportunities to wear them.

  8. Heather (Heather's Dish) Not Specified Not Specified

    girl, just get a lighter summer scarf :) that’s what i’d do anyway…that and a big fat bowl of baked ziti!

  9. Shari @ The Daily Dish Not Specified Not Specified

    5 stars
    You just turned a messy casserole dish into something beautiful. Amazing.

  10. Blog is the New Black Not Specified Not Specified

    5 stars
    Such a classic! This was the best ziti!

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  12. Karen Not Specified Not Specified

    I recently moved to LA from San Francisco, and my scarves are atrophy-ing in my closet. :( Now I feel the need to bake some ziti and get them out! *sigh* I miss them…

  13. Ashley Not Specified Not Specified

    I adore that wooden spoon! Totally loving these photos, per usual…and all that cheesy goodness. :)

  14. shelly (cookies and cups) Not Specified Not Specified

    I have never seen Baked Ziti look so pretty!

  15. brookeO Not Specified Not Specified

    I love winter and can completely relate. This ziti looks like it makes the spring resistance totally worth it!

  16. Yadsia @ShopCookMake Not Specified Not Specified

    5 stars
    This was soooooo good! Pasta and cheese, what else do we need to survive? lol

  17. Anna @ the shady pine Not Specified Not Specified

    This is a perfect omforting dish for the cooler weather…my family will love this ish so I am going to try it out.

  18. kale @ tastes good to me! Not Specified Not Specified

    Yes, I’m with you! Pasta and chowder all year!

  19. Brittany Not Specified Not Specified

    Yes, winter food all the time!! I’ve gotten used to everyone in the house groaning as I turn the oven on during a hot summer afternoon, and I don’t care! Warm, gooey, heavy food is just comforting, and I’m down for that any time of year. :)

  20. Kelly @ Studio DIY Not Specified Not Specified

    I live in LA too and I’m with ya on the boots, scarves and sweaters! Even if it’s going to be 75+ I feel like I need all three. Also with you on the food front, long live pasta!

  21. Sally @ Spontaneous Hausfrau Not Specified Not Specified

    Oh, I totally hear you on the scarf thing. I’ve run out of “scarf storage room” but I can’t seem to stop buying them. They’re just too much fun and too easy. Plus, a nice big scarf is perfect for hiding a bloated belly from eating too much baked ziti. Which, now that I have this recipe, is obviously what I plan on doing pretty soon.

  22. Sara Not Specified Not Specified

    5 stars
    Just made this tonight and my hubby and I both loved it! The spicy sausage was perfect and the cheesy baked pasta was super yummy! We’ve had this at restaurants but we both liked this version best. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Lea @ iCooklea Not Specified Not Specified

    5 stars
    This was awesome – and I loooove your pictures

  24. Sara Grace Not Specified Not Specified

    The styling on this is fantastic! This recipe looks wonderful, too!

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  29. Maria Not Specified Not Specified

    5 stars
    I made this today and added provolone and ricotta cheese! Super cheesy and super delicious! Thanks for great recipe!

  30. PINGBACK: Baked Ziti | Culinary Recipes

  31. Big Mike Not Specified Not Specified

    5 stars
    Everything looks great, but I ad seasoned Ricotta cheese.
    Ricotta cheese seasoned with Garlic powder, parsley, Basil, Oregano, grated Locatelli Pecorino Romano, and 1 egg. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix all together and add to ziti before baking. It is fantastic

  32. Donna Limpert Not Specified Not Specified

    When you say 12 oz. of pasta is that before or after you cook it ?? I made it today and my pan was HEAPING !!! I didn’t know if it was all going to fit ! I was wondering if I did something wrong! But it looks really yummy so we will see how mine tastes !!

  33. Kristen Not Specified Not Specified

    5 stars
    Made this for dinner tonight and it was a huge hit! :)

  34. Resep Masakan Indonesia Not Specified Not Specified

    It looks really great.
    I really want it!!!

  35. Veronika Not Specified Not Specified

    5 stars
    Love making Baked Ziti as comfort food in the winter! There is nothing better than a bowl with pasta, loaded with sauce and cheese! Never tried to make it with sausage but will use it next time!

  36. Sweety A. Not Specified Not Specified

    5 stars
    That’s so yum!
    It’s gonna be my next weekend receive for sure.

  37. agahie raiegan Not Specified Not Specified

    5 stars
    really nice
    thanks…