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Easy Baked Ziti

This Easy Baked Ziti pasta with its rich tomato-meat sauce and gooey cheese will make you feel like an expert in the kitchen. It’s super comforting American-Italian food that everyone will love! It’s easy to make and is even better the second day!

Do you struggle with getting something interesting and tasty on the table night after night? Well, believe it or not, even food bloggers do.

A serving of baked ziti in a white dish.

When I need a recipe for a family dinner or something to take to a potluck, this is one of my most dependable fall-backs. The ingredients are simple and usually in the pantry and freezer. The prep is easy – about 10 minutes – and almost everyone loves Baked Ziti.

This recipe easily doubles or triples, keeps well in the refrigerator, and you can make it in advance. What more could you want?

Ingredient Notes

Ingredients needed for easy baked ziti.
  • Ziti pasta (If you don’t have ziti, any tube-shaped pasta works great. Penne is a good choice, and even elbow macaroni will work in a pinch.)
  • Marinara sauce (Use a quality bottled sauce or make your own.)
  • Mozzarella cheese (I highly recommend you try freshly grated mozzarella at least once. But if you don’t have the time, just grab a bag of the pre-shredded stuff.)
  • Parmesan (Of course, Parmigiano Reggiano is the gold standard, but it’s expensive. Use what fits your budget.)

The complete ingredient list with detailed measurements is included in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.

How to Make Easy Baked Ziti

STEP 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

STEP 2. Place a large pot of well salted water on to boil. Cook the ziti according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Onions and bacon cooking in a skillet.
STEP 3.
Cooked ground beef in a skillet.
STEP 4.
Tomatoes and marinara added to the cooked beef.
STEP 5.

STEP 3. While the ziti cooks, make the meat sauce. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, onion, and bacon. Cook, stirring frequently, until the bacon is cooked and the onion is translucent.

STEP 4. Add the ground beef to the skillet. Cook until no pink color remains in the ground beef.

👉 PRO TIP: (Optional) At this point, drain the excess fat from the pan if you like. Return the beef mixture to the pan and continue with the recipe.

STEP 5. Add the marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, garlic powder, celery seed, salt, and ground black pepper stirring well. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.

STEP 6. Remove the meat sauce from the heat and add the drained pasta and 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese. Stir together until evenly combined.

Ziti, meat sauce, and cheese mixture in a baking dish.
STEP 7.
Cheese added to the top of the ziti mixture.
STEP 7.

STEP 7. Pour the mixture into an ovenproof baking dish or pan. Top with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella and the grated Parmesan. Cover loosely with foil.

STEP 8. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil during the last 5 minutes of baking.

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Finished baked ziti in a baking dish.
STEP 9.

STEP 9. Remove the dish from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serving Suggestion

Serve Baked Ziti with freshly baked Cheesy Onion and Herb Bread and a tossed salad with a nice vinaigrette.

Storage

Store any leftovers in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Freezing: Baked ziti can be frozen either before or after baking. Make sure to wrap the dish well with plastic wrap and then a layer of aluminum foil. To bake the frozen, unbaked ziti, let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Remove the plastic wrap and bake at 350F for about 35-40 minutes. Follow the same instructions to reheat frozen, baked ziti.

A spoonful of baked ziti.

Variations and Substitutions

  • Add buttered bread crumbs to the top during the last 5 minutes of cooking if desired.
  • Substitute ground turkey for the ground beef.
  • Substitute half the beef with mild or hot Italian sausage.
  • Instead of mozzarella, you could use white or yellow Cheddar, Swiss, or Gruyere.
  • Use a jar of spaghetti sauce instead of marinara.

Questions About Baked Ziti

Can I make this with Italian sausage instead of ground beef?

Of course! You can substitute all sausage, half sausage, or all ground turkey in your Baked Ziti if you like.

Do you cook Baked Ziti covered or uncovered?

Bake the dish covered until the last 5 minutes of cooking time. You can remove the foil at that point to allow the cheese on top to bubble and brown.

Lana Stuart.

Questions? I’m happy to help!

If you have more questions about the recipe, or if you’ve made it and would like to leave a comment, scroll down to leave your thoughts, questions, and/or rating!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

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A serving of baked ziti in a white dish.

Easy Baked Ziti

Easy Baked Ziti combines rich tomato and meat sauce with pasta and cheese in classic Americanized Italian comfort food style!
5 from 5 votes
Print It Rate It
Course: Main Dishes, Pasta
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 760kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ziti (or other tube-shaped pasta such as penne)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 ounces diced raw bacon (about 1/2 cup or 4 slices)
  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef
  • 24 ounces marinara sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 14.5 ounces diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 12 ounces shredded fresh mozzarella cheese (about 3 cups), divided use
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • Place a large pot of well-salted water on to boil. Cook the ziti according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  • While the ziti cooks, make the meat sauce. In a large skillet, add the olive oil, onion, and bacon. Cook, stirring frequently, until the bacon is cooked and the onion is translucent.
  • Add the ground beef to the skillet. Cook until no pink color remains in the ground beef.
  • Add the marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, garlic powder, celery seed, salt, and ground black pepper stirring well. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Remove the meat sauce from the heat and add the drained pasta and 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese. Stir together until evenly combined.
  • Pour the mixture into an ovenproof baking dish or pan. Top with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella and the grated Parmesan.
  • Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. 
  • Remove the dish from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • You can substitute all sausage, half sausage, or all ground turkey.
  • Store any leftovers in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
  • May be frozen either before or after baking. Wrap with plastic wrap and then a layer of aluminum foil. To bake, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Remove the plastic wrap and bake at 350F for about 35-40 minutes.

Nutrition Information

Serving 1portion | Calories 760kcal | Carbohydrates 52g | Protein 35g | Fat 45g | Saturated Fat 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat 3g | Monounsaturated Fat 18g | Trans Fat 1g | Cholesterol 113mg | Sodium 1158mg | Potassium 779mg | Fiber 4g | Sugar 7g | Vitamin A 771IU | Vitamin C 12mg | Calcium 334mg | Iron 4mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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Finished baked ziti in a baking dish.

— This post was originally published on April 12, 2010. It has been updated with new photos and additional information.

5 from 5 votes (5 ratings without comment)

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20 Comments

  1. Do you use the 16 oz cans or the large cans of tomatoes?

    1. Lana Stuart says:

      The regular size cans. They’re usually 14.5 oz these days.

      1. Kathryn P says:

        Thanks for the quick response! Planning to cook soon. I enjoy your blog.

        1. Lana Stuart says:

          You’re welcome, Kathryn. Glad I could help.

  2. Caveman Cooking says:

    Nothing like a good Ziti! Looks fantastic, Lana!

  3. Sounds like a great improvisation to me!

  4. jenn (Bread + Butter) says:

    A god pasta bake is what I need right about now. Yum!!!! I’m actually having mac and cheese for dinner tonight. :)

  5. Love the Gruyere cheese in this! I use a smoked Gruyere in a frittata that is one of my favorite dishes.

    1. Ohhh….that frittata looks wonderful! And I bet a smoked cheese in this ziti would be great, too.

  6. Heavenly Housewife says:

    Simply scrumptious looking, gorgeous picture. I am going to bookmark this. I have been looking for some great pasta recipes to add to my collection.
    Lovely blog.
    *kisses* HH

    1. Thank you! I’m still working on improving my photography. Have a lot to learn but I’ll get there eventually.

  7. I’m glad to decidede to hit the pots and pans. This is a delicious looking bake. It’s nice for a make ahead meal too. Very YUM!!

    1. Thank you Deeba. This was easy to make and the gruyere gives it a different taste from the typical mozzarella/parm combination.

  8. Barbara @ moderncomfortfood says:

    I’m so with you on the distractions these longer, warmer days offer. I walked the beaches two days ago, went salt water wade fishing yesterday in front of my house (yes, caught two), and spent all day digging my vegetable garden today. And now I’m eating an OK, but not great, grilled cream cheese and garden chives sandwich for dinner. Not nearly as good as your delicious-looking ziti, which I hope to try. Many thanks for sharing.

    1. Distractions, yes. But so welcome, aren’t they?

  9. pasta, tomatoes, cheese….in my book those are magic words! Looks delicious!

    1. Definitely a great classic combo…pasta, tomatoes and cheese. You’d probably prefer a low-fat option, and I think this would adapt easily to low-fat cheeses.

  10. 5 Star Foodie says:

    Sounds great with Gruyere and Cheddar!

    1. The Gruyere gives a very distinctive taste, so be sure you really like it if you use it in this recipe. Otherwise, you could do all cheddar.