Baked Ziti. This classic comfort food is loaded up with Italian sausage, marinara sauce and three types of cheese. Perfect for a weeknight dinner for the family or for feeding a crowd!
This baked ziti is the perfect low key, non fussy pasta dish. It’s flavorful thanks to using Italian sausage. Grab a jar of your favorite Marinara sauce (mine is Rao’s!) to save time. Plus it’s cheesy and melty thanks to using THREE different types of cheese. Prep ahead of time and be ready to pop this into the oven when needed, or double up (or more..) to feed a crowd.
Serve this Baked Ziti with a side of salad drizzled with Homemade Italian Dressing, or go all out with this Italian Chop Salad. Or serve up some Baked Zucchini Fries for a fun side dish.
Ingredients Needed for Baked Ziti:
Notes on Ingredients:
- Sausage: grab a mild sausage to make this family friendly. If you are looking for more spice feel free to grab the spicy sausage. Other substitutions would include ground turkey or chicken, but you will want to season those with some Italian seasoning to get more flavor.
- Marinara: you of course can make your own sauce for this recipe. Or simply grab a jar of your favorite brand. We will be doctoring it up slightly to add a bit more flavoring to the entire dish.
- Ziti Noodles: this dish can be made with any other short noodle variety. Penne or Rigatoni are great options to substitute with.
- Cheese: this is a cheesy dish, and I don’t recommend making this dish while omitting the cheese.
How to Make Baked Ziti (Step By Step Photos)
- Cook the Pasta: bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a generous amount of salt. Cook the noodles until they are al dente, they should still have a firm bite to them. Drain and set aside.
- Prepare the Sauce: Cook the sausage, breaking it up while it cooks. Add the onion and garlic. Pour in the marinara sauce (homemade or store bought) and season with basil, salt, and black pepper. Taste and adjust as needed.
Add a small amount of sauce to the noodles to ensure they are coated in the sauce, this gives more flavor to the finished dish!
- Prepare the Cheese Mixture: in a bowl combine the ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan and black pepper. Stir to combine this together.
- Layer the Pasta: prepare the dish by spreading a layer of sauce in the bottom of the dish. Just enough to coat the dish. Then add half of the noodle mixture. Top the noodles with half of the cheese mixture. Then repeat the layers: sauce, noodles, ricotta cheese mixture.
- Top with Shredded Cheese: top the entire dish with some extra shredded cheese.
- Bake: cover the dish with foil, tent it slightly so that the cheese doesn’t stick and pull away when removed.
- Remove foil: after baking for 20 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes. Broil if desired for 5 minutes to get more browned spots of cheese on top.
Storage and Make Ahead Directions:
- Make Ahead: prepare the dish according to directions, but instead of baking, cover with foil and store in the refrigerator. This can be stored for 1 day before baking. Remove to room temperature and allow the dish to warm while preheating the oven.
- Freezing: after baking, allow the dish to cool, then cover with foil, or store in a sealed freezer safe container. Can be frozen for 2-3 months. Remove to refrigerator to allow thawing overnight. Reheat in the oven by baking at 350℉ for 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted and dish is warmed through.
- Leftovers: store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Reheat in the oven by covering with foil and baking at 350℉ until warmed through. Time can vary depending on amount being reheated.
More Pasta Recipes:
- Nothing beats a plate of Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs.
- Need something super quick? This Easy Lasagna Skillet only needs 30 minutes start to finish.
- Spice things up with this family friendly Taco Pasta.
- Be the star of dinner time with this Homemade Mac and Cheese.
Recipe first published November 5, 2014. Updated March 5, 2021 with new images and information.
Photography done by @KJandCompany