This delicious baked ziti recipe is a simple weeknight dinner made with three different cheese, a delicious marinara sauce, and our favorite ziti noodles.
Simple Baked Ziti
Who doesn’t love pasta that is tossed with a delicious marinara sauce and then baked with lots of different cheese? This simple baked ziti recipe is a family favorite!
our fav things about this baked ziti recipe
- We love that this recipe is made with a homemade marinara sauce that is easy to make.
- You get delicious protein AND vegetables in this baked ziti.
- It is a well rounded meal of meat, veggies, cheese, and pasta.
- You only need one pot to make this delicious meal, just be sure the pot you use is oven safe.
- You can make this recipe your own by adding different ingredients!
Ingredients You Need
- Ground pork and ground turkey- we used a combination of pork and turkey for this baked ziti recipe. They two meats are a great combination of flavor and lean meat. Not too greasy and not too dry.
- White onion– the white onion adds a ton of flavor to the marinara sauce.
- Dried spices (garlic powder, dried thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, chili powder, dried marjoram, dried fennel, salt, pepper)- the combination of all of these dried spices gives this baked ziti an Italian sausage taste. The spice combination adds so much depth and deliciousness.
- Dry red wine– we deglaze the pot with red wine and it adds the right amount of acidity to the pot.
- Tomato paste- the tomato paste is used to thicken the sauce for the baked ziti. Be sure you add the tomato paste into the sauce and let it cook down until the sauce is thick.
- Tomato sauce – any plain, unseasoned and unsalted tomato sauce would work for this recipe.
- Green bell pepper- we wanted a crunch and a vegetable in this baked ziti dish and green pepper seemed like the obvious choice.
- Ricotta cheese– the creaminess and richness of this baked ziti comes from the ricotta cheese.
- Parmesan cheese- you can’t have a baked ziti without parmesan. The saltiness really rounds out the dish.
- Mozzarella– the melty and gooey texture of this baked ziti comes from the mozzarella. Both in the dish and on top.
- Ziti– it’s in the name, use ziti noodles for this baked ziti dish.
- Parley– fresh parsley is the perfect garnish for this meal
what other ingredients can you use?
There are endless ways to make this dish your own. Below are some great ingredient substitutions or add-ins.
chicken + pork –> ground beef will work instead
green pepper–> zucchini rounds or any of your favorite vegetables
tomato sauce–> a mixture of crushed tomatoes or fresh tomatoes blended down would work, too!
ziti–> rigatoni or penne noodles would be the closet substitute
At a Glance: How to Make Baked Ziti
- Cook the meat. We start this recipe by cooking down the meat to create a delicious and salty flavor base for the recipe. Be sure you cook both meats through.
- Add the spices. You add the spices to the meat and create a homemade ground Italian sausage that will add all of the best flavors and textures to your marinara sauce. You add the spices here too.
- Deglaze the pot. Use your favorite red wine to deglaze the pot and break up any brown bits from the pot, there is a ton of flavor in those brown bits.
- Make the sauce. Add the rest of `the ingredients to the pot for the sauce and bring all the ingredients to a simmer.
- Prepare the noodles. While the sauce is thickening, add the ziti to a large pot of boiling water. Cook the noodles until they are slightly under al dente. They will continue to cook in the oven. Rinse the noodles in cold water so they stop going after straining them.
- Mix ingredients together + add cheese. Add the noodles to the dutch oven as well as the ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella. Mix all of the ingredients together until combined.
- Bake. Cover the dutch oven and bake for 20 minutes at 350ºF.
- More cheese. Bake. Remove the dutch oven from the oven and sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top of the pasta. Bake for an additional 20 minutes uncovered.
- Remove the pasta from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before enjoying a bowl.
Tips + Tricks for Baked Ziti
What is the difference between lasagna and baked ziti?
Though lasagna and baked ziti use similar ingredients to each other, there are a few differences between lasagna and baked ziti.
They both use different noodles (lasagna and ziti). They are also assembled differently. Baked ziti is a mixture of all of the ingredients and lasagna typically has layers of ingredients.
Do you bake ziti covered or uncovered?
We do a mixture. We cover the ziti at first and then uncover the ziti, add the remaining cheese to the top, and then bake for an additional 20 minutes.
Can you refrigerate baked ziti before baking?
Yes, you can make the baked ziti, cover it, and refrigerate the ziti overnight before baking it. The flavors will become more intense and delicious.
Just be sure to undercook the noodles if you plan to store the ziti with the sauce. Sometimes the noodles will absorb the sauce and become mushy if they are overcooked.
Can I make this baked ziti vegetarian?
You can make this dish vegetarian by getting rid of the ground beef or pork and use a plant based ground. Just be sure to use a bit of olive oil when you cook down the plant ground.
Can baked ziti be frozen?
Yes, baked ziti can be frozen. We suggest that you undercook the noodles if you know you are going to freeze the baked ziti. After you mix all the ingredient together, instead of baking the ziti, cover the ziti, and place it in the freezer for up to 3 months.
How to reheat baked ziti from frozen?
Remove the baked ziti from the freezer and uncover. Place the baked ziti in the oven and bake from frozen at 350ºF for 45-60 minutes.
Store the baked ziti in an airtight container once it has cooled completely. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Baked Ziti Recipe
- ½ lb. ground pork
- ½ lb. ground turkey
- ½ medium white onion diced
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1 teaspoon dried fennel
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ cup dry red wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 15-oz. cans tomato sauce
- 1 large green bell pepper diced
- ½ cup full fat ricotta cheese
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup grated mozzarella
- 16 oz. uncooked ziti pasta
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ½ cup grated mozzarella cheese
- Fresh parsley for topping
- Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat and preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Add the ground turkey and ground pork to the dutch oven and break the meat up into small pieces.
- Next, add the white onion to the Dutch oven and toss the onion with the meat. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the garlic powder, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, chili powder, marjoram, fennel, salt and pepper to the Dutch oven and mix until the spices are well combined with the meat. Cook the meat and spices together for 2-3 minutes.
- Deglaze the pot with red wine and scrape the bottom of the dutch oven with a spatula to remove brown bits.
- Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, and the bell pepper to the dutch oven and whisk the ingredients together. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the ziti to the pot. Under cook the pasta so it still has a crunch, less cooked than al dente.
- Strain the water from the pasta and rinse the pasta with cold water. Set aside.
- Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and add the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and mozzarella to the tomato sauce and mix until the cheese is melted.
- Add the cooked ziti to the Dutch oven and mix.
- Cover the dutch oven and bake it for 20 minutes at 350ºF.
- Remove the Dutch oven after 20 minutes and sprinkle with the additional parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese.
- Turn the oven to broil and place the dutch oven into the oven and broil until the cheese is golden brown.
- Remove the baked ziti from the oven, sprinkle with fresh thyme.
- Let the baked ziti sit for 10 minutes before serving.