Cheesy Baked Ziti Recipe – Baked ziti loaded with pasta, marinara, cheese and beef that makes the ultimate Italian dish. A staple family recipe that’s always a big crowd pleaser!
One of my all time favorite foods is pasta. There is something so comforting about taking a bite of warm, cheesy noodles covered in a flavorful sauce. I love this baked ziti recipe, as well as baked ravioli, fettuccine alfredo, spaghetti bolognese and crockpot lasagna.
Easy baked ziti
Today I’ll be sharing my favorite cheesy baked ziti recipe that is made at least once a month in my home, if not more. This ziti recipe has been a staple in my family for as long as I can remember. I loved helping my mom cook dinner as a little girl, especially when it was something I was excited to eat. I still remember pulling up a stool and having the job of stirring the ziti noodles.
This baked ziti is also a great meal to take to someone who just had a baby or is sick. I like to buy foil pans from the Dollar Store and fill the pasta inside. It’s the perfect make ahead meal! It also tastes wonderful served with garlic bread or breadsticks and a salad. :) Super yummy!
What is the difference between ziti and penne?
Although the two pastas are very similar, ziti typically has a larger width and the ends of the noodles are cut straight across. Penne has a smaller width and the ends are cut at an angle. When looking at two pastas, ziti will have more of a tube-like shape.
If you’re wondering if you can sub other pastas for ziti…you absolutely can. We use all kinds of noodles for this baked ziti recipe…just whatever we have on hand. Below are a few of different types of noodles that will work perfectly.
Different types of noodles
What is ziti made of?
- Noodles: Ziti noodles are the classic noodles to use, however you could sub other types of pasta like rigatoni or penne as well.
- Cheese: The ziti recipe calls for freshly grated mozzarella, however feel free to make swaps based on what you have on hand, like parmesan or provolone.
- Tomato based products: We add in a can of diced tomatoes, as well as a 26 ounce jar of spaghetti sauce or marinara.
- Sour cream: I love the added creaminess that the sour cream gives the ziti. It takes this recipe over the top!
- Meat: You can use a pound of your preferred meat of choice. I like to use either ground beef or Italian sausage.
- Aromatics and spices: There are lots of different aromatics and spices used to give this baked ziti it’s wonderful flavor. You’ll need onions, garlic, fresh basil, oregano, salt and pepper.
How to make baked ziti
Scroll down for the printable baked ziti recipe.
- Preheat oven. Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- Cook onions, garlic and meat. Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet and add in onions and garlic. Saute for 3-5 minutes, then add in hamburger and cook until brown.
- Boil pasta. While meat is browning, boil pasta according to package directions and then drain.
- Add in tomatoes and spices. Once meat has browned, stir in tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, salt, pepper, oregano and basil. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
- Stir in sour cream and noodles, then assemble. Add in sour cream and noodles and mix. Then pour half the mixture into the pan and top with half of the cheese. Pour remaining pasta mixture on top and sprinkle on remaining cheese.
- Bake. Bake the ziti for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Serve and enjoy! Top with fresh basil or parsley if desired.
NOTE: No need to cover the baked ziti when cooking. It cooks in the oven uncovered for 20-25 minutes until bubbly. Only cover if you are reheating or cooking baked ziti that you’ve frozen.
How far in advance can I make ziti?
To make the baked ziti in advance, simply assemble, cover with foil and place in the fridge. The assembled ziti will keep in the fridge for about 2 days. When ready to bake, simply remove foil and bake at 350° for about 35-45 minutes.
What is the best way to reheat baked ziti?
To reheat the baked ziti, loosely cover with foil and cook in oven at 350° until ziti is warmed throughout. The foil helps to keep the ziti from drying out. I’ve found that it takes about 15 minutes for the ziti to heat all the way through.
Can you freeze uncooked baked ziti?
To freeze ziti, place half of the mixture into an 8×8″ pan and cover with foil. Then place the pan in a zip top bag and freeze. When ready to cook, remove from the freezer and thaw on the counter for 1 hour or in the refrigerator overnight. Preheat the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes.
Baked Ziti Recipe
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 pound ground beef or Italian sausage
- 1 pound ziti or penne noodles
- 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 26 ounce jar spaghetti sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (2 teaspoons fresh)
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2-4 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1-2 cups grated fresh mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9×13 pan. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add in onion and garlic then saute for 3-5 minutes, or until onions are tender. Add in hamburger and cook until brown.
- While hamburger is browning boil pasta according to package directions, then drain.
- Once hamburger is brown, add tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, salt, oregano, pepper and basil leaves. Stir and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
- Stir in sour cream and noodles. Then pour half the mixture into the pan. Top with half of the mozzarella cheese and then pour the rest of the pasta mixture on top. Place the remaining cheese on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.
- Top with fresh basil or parsley if desired.
This easy baked ziti is one of my family’s favorite dish! Mmm… now I’m craving pasta!