Baked Ziti is everything that a classic Italian comfort dish should be. Cheesy, creamy, saucy, gooey goodness that leaves you cleaning that last bit off your plate and looking for more. Even better? This is incredibly easy to make and is perfect if you’re looking for a quick and absolutely delicious meal everyone will enjoy.
The straightforward simpleness of this dish also makes it incredibly versatile. You’ve got your base recipe to work with, but you can really color outside the lines on this one. Substitute your favorite meat or vegan meat product of choice. Mix up the cheeses to a more or less creamy blend. Play with your spices to give it a more Mediterranean flair. Toss some sour cream in your tomato sauce to give it a creamier texture.
What? YES! There are a lot of turns you can take with baked ziti to make it one of your signature dishes that nobody else can exactly replicate, so let’s get that base recipe going and have some fun!
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What Will I Need for Baked Ziti?
First things first, make sure you’ve got Ziti Pasta. Ziti is a tube shape pasta cut into about inch long pieces, which hold up nicely in the casserole style of this dish.
OK, now let’s make sure we hit the dairy section and get our cheeses. For this version you’ll want cubed Mozzarella, Ricotta, and a grated Parmesan/Romano blend. The Ricotta gives this a lovely consistency and the Mozzarella adds that nice stretchy melted goodness when you’re scooping out a forkful. The Parmesan and Romano adds a wonderful flavor to the cheese mix.
From your flavors you’ll want Oregano, Parsley, and Crushed Red Pepper, minced garlic ad shallots. You’ll also need some olive oil and white wine. You can use a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio if you happen to have those, or you can buy a dry white cooking wine.
Finally, you’ll need crushed peppers and ground Italian Sausage. One substitute we enjoy here is using the Beyond Meat Ground. If you use this you might want to look at adding some Italian Spices such as fennel, oregano, and parsley when cooking to give some flavor.
All right, you’ve got your ingredients, let’s get cooking!
Putting Together The Ziti
First things first, get a pot of water boiling and put in your pasta once it’s at a rolling boil. Cook the pasta to the instructions that it comes with. It will cook for about 8-10 minutes. Pasta should be firm but cooked all the way through when finished.
Warm a large saute pan to medium heat and put in olive oil. Our favorite saute pan is the Ninja Foodie 3 Quart Saute Pan. It cooks evenly and the non stick surface is great for cooking foods without having them stick and burn to the pan, while also being incredibly easy to clean.
Add shallots and cook until aroma releases, about two minutes. Add sausage and cook for another five minutes. Make sure to break up sausage and turn while cooking. Add Garlic and Oregano for the last minute of cooking sausage.
Add cooking wine, crushed tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and half of your parsley. Stir everything together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to release.
Warm your oven to 450 degrees and prepare a baking dish by spraying vegetable spray or lightly brushing with olive oil.
Drain pasta and put into a large mixing bowl. Stir Ricotta, half of Parmesan and half of Romano along with all of the sauce into the bowl. Stir until cheese and sauce are evenly blended with pasta.
Pour half of pasta mix into baking dish. Place Mozzarella cubes evenly on top of pasta/sauce mixture. Layer the rest of the pasta mix over the Mozzarella cubes. Evenly sprinkle the remainder of the Parmesan and Romano over the top.
Put in middle rack oven uncovered for 20 minutes.
Pull out of oven, sprinkle with remainder of fresh chopped parsley, and you are ready to serve!!!
Interested in other Italian Favorites? Check out our quick, simple, and tasty Stuffed Shells!
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Baked Ziti is everything that a classic Italian dish should be. Cheesy, creamy, saucy, gooey goodness that leaves you asking for more, even when you’re already full. It’s that good. Even better, it’s so easy to make. Consider it a simple lasagna without all the fuss and layering that lasagna calls for.
In a pot, bring water to a boil. Add ziti and cook 9-11 minutes until al dente (soft but not floppy to the touch with no pasta crunch) Drain. Drizzle/toss with 1 tbsp olive oil. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for 2 minutes. The shallots will release a nice, rich smell, soften in texture and get a translucent sheen on their skin.
Add sausage or other meat product to shallots, breaking up and stirring meat as it sautees for 5 minutes. Add garlic and oregano to flavor in the the last minute of this process.
Complete your sauce by adding wine, tomatoes, crushed peppers and ½ of the parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce to a slow simmer and cook 5-10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare a baking dish with vegetable spray or olive oil. Lightly spray or coat the bottom of the dish with the oil.
Stir Pasta, Ricotta, ½ of the Romano, ½ of the parmesan and sauce in a bowl. Sauce and Cheese should evenly cover pasta.
Pour ½ of the pasta mix into the baking dish.
Layer the mozzarella on top of this mix. Top with the rest of the pasta mix and sprinkle remaining Parmesan/Romano on top. These layers will melt the cheeses throughout the pasta during the cooking process, giving a nice, creamy blend.
Bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes. The top cheese layer should be fully melted with just slight edge of browning before pulling out of the oven.
Let rest for five minutes, sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve.
- I used Beyond Sausage as a meat substitute and it tasted just like regular sausage. If using real sausage, drain off extra oil before adding garlic and oregano in step 2.
- The crushed peppers in the recipe add a little spice. You can add to or substitute the peppers with different flavors and spices of your choice.
- Serve with garlic bread and/or salad