This classic baked ziti recipe is rich and gooey with its layers of pasta, homemade red sauce with Italian sausage, and three types of melty cheese. And it is not fussy. See how to make baked ziti in this article of Apronese.
Pasta Shape Options
If you can’t find ziti (a smooth, tubular shaped pasta), you can use penne or rigatoni in this recipe.
Rigatoni is the most similar to ziti. The only difference is that it has ridges and is slightly shorter and wider.
Can I Add Vegetables to Baked Ziti?
Yes, you can. If you were to add vegetables, add some fresh spinach into the sauce and stir until it is wilted, or roast some broccoli, zucchini, or eggplant, and then toss them into the sauce.
Can I Substitute the Italian Sausage?
There are a few options for substituting the sausage. You can use ground beef, turkey, or chicken, but you should double the Italian seasoning blend to make up for the herbs that are found in Italian sausage.
Also, you can use a vegetarian Italian sausage alternative, or substitute with a pound of chopped mushrooms.
How to Serve Baked Ziti?
How to Store the Leftovers?
This baked ziti can last in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. It’s best to divide the leftovers into single servings so they can cool quickly in the refrigerator.
Once the servings are cooled completely in the refrigerator, you can transfer a few to the freezer for longer storage. They can be thawed quickly by microwave.
How to Make Baked Ziti
This classic baked ziti has layers of pasta, homemade red sauce with Italian sausage, and three types of melty cheese.
Prep Time: 10 mins / Cook Time: 55 mins / Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins
- 1 lb. Italian sausage (sweet, mild, or hot) ($3.49)
- 1 yellow onion ($0.27)
- 3 oz. tomato paste ($0.27)
- 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes ($1.00)
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning blend ($0.30)
- 1/2 cup water ($0.00)
- 1 lb. ziti ($1.67)
- 1/2 tbsp salt (for pasta water) ($0.05)
- 15 oz. ricotta ($1.69)
- 1 cup Italian cheese blend ($1.15)
- Freshly cracked black pepper ($0.05)
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella ($2.29)
- 1 handful chopped parsley (optional, for garnish) ($0.20)
- Brown the sausage in a large skillet or pot over medium heat, until it’s brown and crispy on the edges (pork sausage contains a lot of fat, so I didn’t add any extra to the skillet).
- While the sausage is browning, finely dice the onion. Add the onion to the skillet once the sausage has browned, and continue to sauté over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and ½ cup water to the skillet with the sausage 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. Stir the sauce occasionally as it simmers.
- After getting the sauce started, begin the ziti. Bring a large pot of water with 1/2 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 the ziti in a colander. Shake the colander a bit to shake excess water out of the pasta.
- While the pasta and sauce are cooking, prepare the cheese filling. Add the ricotta, Italian cheese blend, and some freshly cracked black pepper (about 10 cranks of a pepper mill) to a bowl and stir to combine. Begin to preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- After draining the ziti, return it to the pot and add 1 cup of the red sauce. Stir to coat the cooked pasta in sauce.
- Pour half of the ziti to a 9×13″ baking dish. Add half of the ricotta mixture on top of the ziti in small dollops. Finally, spoon half of the red sauce and sausage over the pasta and ricotta. It’s okay if the ingredients don’t cover in a solid layer. Repeat these layers with the second half of the pasta, ricotta mixture, and sauce. Finally, top with 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. Transfer the covered casserole to the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
- After baking for 20 minutes, remove the foil, and turn the oven on to broil (keep the casserole on the middle rack, about 10-12 inches from the broiler). Broil for 5 minutes, or just until the cheese is slightly browned. Keep a close eye on the baked ziti as it broils, because broilers can vary in intensity. Top with chopped parsley, if desired, then serve.
Serving: 1 Serving ・ Calories: 570.03 kcal ・ Carbohydrates: 39.15 g ・ Protein: 34.04 g ・ Fat: 30.3 g ・ Sodium: 1730.49 mg ・ Fiber: 4.85 g
The nutritional values shown here are only estimates. Please see our nutrition disclaimer.
How to Make Baked Ziti – Step-by-step Photos
Step 1: Begin by browning 1 pound Italian sausage in a skillet until it is brown and crispy on the edges. Pork sausage has quite a bit of fat in it on its own, so I didn’t add any extra to the skillet.
Step 2: While the sausage is browning, finely dice a yellow onion. Add it to the skillet with the browned sausage and continue to sauté for a few minutes more, or until the onion is soft and translucent.
Step 3: Add 3 oz. tomato paste (half of a 6 oz. can), 1 tbsp Italian seasoning blend, one 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, and 1/2 cup water.
Stir to combine, place a lid on the skillet, and let it come up to a simmer.
Once simmering, turn the heat down to low and let it continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, while you begin cooking the ziti.
Step 4: Once the sauce is simmering away, begin cooking the ziti.
Bring a large pot of water with 1/2 tbsp salt to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add 1 lb. ziti.
Continue to boil the ziti until tender, then drain in a colander.
Shake the colander a bit to shake out the excess water.
Step 5: While the ziti is boiling and the sauce is simmering, make the ricotta cheese blend.
Add 15 oz. ricotta, 1 cup Italian cheese blend, and some freshly cracked black pepper to a bowl.
Stir to combine. Also begin to preheat the oven to 350ºF at the time.
Step 6: After draining the ziti, return it to the pot and add 1 cup of the red sauce. Stir to coat the ziti in the sauce.
Step 7: Pour half of the sauce coated ziti into a 9×13″ casserole dish.
Add half of the ricotta mixture on top of the ziti in small dollops, then add half of the red sauce on top.
Step 8: Repeat with a second layer of pasta, ricotta mixture, and sauce, then top with 2 cups shredded mozzarella.
Step 9: Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Make sure the foil is slightly tented so it doesn’t touch the cheese and stick when it melts.
Step 10: After baking for 20 minutes, remove the foil, turn the oven to broil, and return the casserole to the oven (keep it on the middle rack, about 10-12 inches from the broiler).
Broil for about 5 minutes, or just until the cheese is browned on top. Keep a close eye as it broils because broilers can vary in intensity.
Step 11: Garnish with a little chopped parsley if desired. Then serve!
And that’s all! This baked ziti is not fussy, so it’s not hard to make it your own. And you don’t have to worry about delicate sheet pasta or getting your layers perfect. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Follow Apronese for more delicious recipes.