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Baked Ziti – Spend With Pennies

Baked ziti is an easy casserole that tastes like you’ve been cooking all day, but it’s surprisingly quick.

Layers of tender ziti noodles with a meaty zesty Italian sausage sauce and a cream creamy ricotta cheese layer.

Top it all with a generous helping of mozzarella cheese and bake until bubbly!

baked ziti in a bowl with a fork
  • The flavors are similar to a classic lasagna recipe, but it’s easier to make.
  • It has tons of zesty flavor.
  • Adding Italian sausage makes a quick sauce taste like it’s been cooking for hours.
  • This ziti dish is perfect to make ahead, and it reheats and freezes well.
ingredients for baked ziti

Ingredients for Baked Ziti

Meat: Italian sausage adds great flavor to the sauce. Feel free to replace it with ground beef (or ground turkey).

Sauce: This should be browned before adding to the casserole. Add more seasonings, spices (and some chili flakes for heat), and a tablespoon of olive oil for flavor. To make this dish vegetarian, use finely minced vegetables like mushrooms, eggplant, or zucchini.

Pasta: I use ziti in this recipe however, penne, rigatoni, or other tube-shaped pasta can be used in place.

Cheese: Ricotta cheese makes the creamy cheese layer in this recipe. Replace it by blending cottage cheese with an egg until smooth. Feel free to add spinach or additional herbs to the cheese mixture.

Topping: I sprinkle mozzarella cheese overtop for a browned bubbly topping. Just before serving, I love to add freshly grated parmesan cheese and some fresh herbs like parsley or basil.

Variations

  • Swap the sausage with turkey sausage or another ground meat of your choice. Add extra seasonings, salt, and a couple of cloves garlic if not using sausage.
  • Add 1/2 cup heavy cream to the simmering tomato sauce if desired.
  • More fresh herbs can be added to the cheese mixture or on top before serving.
preparing baked ziti casserole

How to Make Baked Ziti

  1. Brown the sausage and onion (per the recipe below) in a large sauté pan. Add sauce ingredients and simmer.
  2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water.
  3. Combine the cheese mixture in a small bowl.
  4. In a greased casserole dish, layer sauce, ziti, and the ricotta mixture.
  5. Top with the remaining shredded mozzarella and bake.
baked ziti casserole ready to go in the oven

Tips for a Great Baked Ziti

  • Use a large skillet for browning meat so the sauce can simmer in the same pan.
  • Cook the pasta al dente (firm) as it will continue to cook as it bakes.
  • To make baked ziti ahead of time, prepare as directed, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 48 hours. Remove it from the fridge at least 30 minutes before baking, and add 10 to 15 minutes of baking time.
  • If desired, this pasta casserole can be divided into two 9-inch baking dishes, and half can be frozen. Thaw overnight in the fridge and bake until hot and bubbly.
baked ziti casserole in a white dish

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cheesy Easy Baked Ziti on a plate

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Easy Baked Ziti

Baked ziti has layers of zesty meat sauce, ricotta cheese, and tender ziti noodles baked until golden. Serve with garlic bread and salad.

Prep Time 20 minutes

Cook Time 25 minutes

Total Time 45 minutes

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  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9x13inch baking dish.

  • In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, brown the sausage and onion, breaking it up with a spoon until the sausage is fairly fine. Drain any fat.

  • Add the pasta sauce, tomatoes, water, and Italian seasoning. Simmer uncovered for 12 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste,

  • Meanwhile, boil ziti in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Drain well.

  • In a small bowl, mix ricotta, egg, parsley, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese.

  • Add 1 cup of sauce to the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Layer half of the ziti, top with all of the ricotta mixture, and half of the sauce.

  • Add remaining ziti, remaining sauce, and top with remaining mozzarella cheese.

  • Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

If replacing the sausage with ground beef or turkey, add 2 cloves of garlic, and 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning to the meat as it cooks.
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes can be added to the sauce for a little kick if you’d like
To Prepare Ahead of Time: Prepare as directed, storing the 1 cup of cheese for the topping in a separate container. Refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to 48 hours or freeze for up to 4 months. If frozen, thaw in the fridge overnight. 
Remove from the fridge at least 30 minutes before baking. Bake for 25 minutes, add the cheese, and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly. 

Calories: 598 | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 97mg | Sodium: 1257mg | Potassium: 816mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1005IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 485mg | Iron: 3.6mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Casserole, Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine Italian
plated Easy Baked Ziti with parmesan and a title
Easy Baked Ziti in a casserole dish with writing
easy to make Easy Baked Ziti with writing
Easy Baked Ziti in the casserole dish and plated with a title

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