Baked Ziti is a classic Italian American comfort food that tastes like you’ve been cooking all day, but is actually very quick to make with little effort. This budget-friendly meal is made with ground beef or sausage, gooey cheese and tomato sauce, and this quick baked ziti recipe is ready in less than an hour, too!
I am a big, big fan of easy meals. As a mom of two toddlers, my ability to prep and create intricate meals is limited. I am love budget-friendly meals, and one of my hands down favorite budget friendly family recipes and easy dinners is baked ziti. Baked ziti is also surprisingly one of the easiest pasta recipes I make, and I love that I can throw it together fast.
Baked ziti is one of those meals that tastes incredible but only requires very little effort to make. This simple, easy baked ziti recipe is essentially a layered, pasta casserole that comes together with noodles, meat, cheese and tomato sauce for an Italian dish that satisfies like lasagna, but without the fuss.
This dish also freezes easily, and tastes delicious as leftovers, too! This simple, easy baked ziti also makes a great addition for your next potluck!
This easy, quick baked ziti recipe is a pretty basic version, but one of the best parts of baked ziti is how easy it is to customize and tweak. You can add different types of cheese, choose a different protein, or even load up your recipe with veggies, like fresh spinach, onion, mushrooms and zucchini! Baked ziti also tastes great without meat if you would prefer to use this recipe for your next Meatless Monday.
This version uses ground beef, ricotta cheese and fresh herbs, as well as ziti noodles. Ziti noodles sold out at your local grocery store? Substitute penne pasta! In fact, this recipe can *technically* by made with so many different types of noodles. Just note that if you use a different type of noodle (like elbows or bowties) the end dish will be slightly different.
I prefer to assemble this ahead of time and put it in the refrigerator until it’s time to bake. I just cover it with foil or plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. If you prefer to freeze it first, just be sure to let it thaw in the fridge overnight before baking.
Customize Your Quick Baked Ziti Recipe
One of the great things about baked ziti is how EASY it is to customize and change up this pasta dish for your own family. Experiment with using different proteins, veggies and cheeses!
This simple, easy baked ziti recipe uses ground beef, but you can also use bulk Italian sausage for a richer flavor. Other easy substitution options are ground turkey or ground chicken. I love to use extra pasta sauce on top of the last layer of noodles to make sure the casserole stays moist during cooking, too.
It probably doesn’t surprise you that the first-choice pasta noodles for baked ziti is ziti noodles! But actually, any medium pasta works great. Good options include penne or rigatoni. Be sure to cook the pasta to al dente (a little undercooked), as the noodles will continue cooking as the casserole bakes in the oven.
Gluten free? Try using strips of zucchini instead of pasta!
Baked ziti is one of the great recipes that is easy to change up with different types of cheese. Mozzarella and parmesan cheese are usually must haves, and creamy ricotta cheese adds a savory texture to the dish. If you’re not a fan of ricotta, just leave it out!
I also recommend mixing your ricotta cheese with an egg until smooth, but if you don’t want eggs, you can also opt to not include that ingredient.
Don’t Forget the Seasonings
If you want to make this dish event easier, pick up a jar of Italian Seasoning blend! It contains all of the seasonings you’ll need for this recipe. If you go the dry spice route, add a little bit of garlic powder too!
If you love using fresh herbs like I do, look for fresh basil, rosemary, sage or thyme. You can also add a little heat to your baked ziti recipe by using red pepper flakes!
How to Make Baked Ziti
Scroll down for the full recipe card below!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Brown the beef and onion, and drain the fat. Mix the meat mixture with the spaghetti sauce and simmer over medium heat. Cook the noodles per the package ingredients in a large pot until al dente and drain. I like to add a small dash of olive oil to the noodles after draining to prevent them from sticking together.
While the sauce is simmering, mix together the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, seasonings and egg in a large bowl.
Layer the sauce mixture, ziti noodles and cheese mixture in a casserole dish. Start with a little bit of sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish, then half of the cooked ziti noodles and all of the ricotta cheese mixture. Add the remaining ziti noodles and sauce, and top with the remaining mozzarella cheese and bake until bubbly (about 30 minutes).
If your oven cooks quickly, you might want to cover your baked ziti with aluminum foil for the first 15 minutes of cook time.
If you love easy, family-friendly Italian meals, be sure to also check out my Easy Crockpot Sausage & Tortellini Soup!
Did you enjoy this Easy, Quick Baked Ziti? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 24 oz. jars spaghetti sauce
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend
- 1 lb. ziti noodles
- 15 oz. ricotta
- 1 cup Italian cheese blend
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- Brown the ground beef in a large skillet or pot over medium heat with a little salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning. Add the onion and crushed garlic to the skillet once the meat has almost completely browned, and continue to sauté over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Drain the fat.
- Add the spaghetti sauce to the same skillet and stir to combine. Place a lid on the skillet and allow it to come up to a simmer. Once simmering, turn the heat down and allow it to continue to simmer while you cook the ziti, stirring the sauce occasionally.
- Preheat the oven to 350º. Bring a large pot of water with ½ Tbsp salt to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the ziti and let it continue to boil until the ziti is tender (about 7-8 minutes). Drain.
- While the pasta cooks, add the ricotta, remaining 1 Tbsp Italian cheese blend, and some freshly cracked black pepper to a bowl and stir to combine.
- After draining the ziti, return it to the pot and add 3/4 of the red sauce mixture, stirring well. Pour half of the ziti into a 9x13" baking dish. Add the ricotta mixture on top of the ziti in small dollops. Repeat with another layer of the ziti noodles and top with the remaining red sauce and 2 cups shredded mozzarella.
- Cover the baking dish with foil, making sure it's slightly tented so that it doesn't touch or stick to the melted cheese, and bake for 20 minutes. After baking for 20 minutes, remove the foil and let the noodles bake for 5-10 more minutes uncovered.
- No ziti noodles? No problem! You can easily substitute penne or rigatoni noodles.
- Meat free? Simply leave out the ground beef! This easy baked ziti tastes great either way.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 615Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 110mgSodium: 889mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 3gSugar: 9gProtein: 40g
Extra Baked Ziti Tips
What goes with baked ziti?
Baked ziti is one of my favorite dishes to make because it goes with so many things. I recommend serving it with a salad and garlic bread. It also is really filling and can be a complete meal on its own!
Why is my baked ziti dry?
To help your baked ziti from getting dry while baking, be sure you cover the last layer of the dish with plenty of pasta sauce. I also recommend cooking it with aluminum foil on top of the baking dish for part of the time it’s in the oven to help prevent the top layer of noodles from getting too crispy and dried out.
Quick Baked Ziti is a Fast Family Favorite
I hope you and your family love this quick baked ziti recipe as much as my family does! If you make it, be sure to tag me on Instagram @simply.siobhan or using the hashtag #MimosasAndMotherhood so I can see how it turned out!