The Best Baked Ziti
A Sunday dinner classic, this Baked Ziti Recipe is layer upon layer of cheese, carb-y heaven. Italian sausage, mushrooms and ricotta cheese are blanked between layers of fresh mozzarella and ziti pasta before being baked to a melty masterpiece. The BEST Baked Ziti ever made.
Cozy comfort food is what we all want right now and homemade classic recipes are just what we need to feed our soul. Things like braised short ribs, mashed potatoes and baked pasta dishes just make you feel so cozy and homey.
It’s those types of dishes that you make for friends and family for Sunday dinners or as a casual pot luck dish. And this Baked Ziti with Ricotta and Sausage recipe is one you’re going to leave in the front of the recipe box. If you own one.
What is Baked Ziti?
Baked Ziti Casserole is a classic pasta dish that’s baked in the oven with other ingredients like cheese, meat and vegetables. This recipe is made with mushrooms and sausage but you can easily substitute the vegetables with whatever you want or even make this meatless if you prefer.
The pasta shape does matter for this recipe because the sauce gets lost inside the ziti making each bite flavor packed and robust!
How To Make It
Baked Ziti is pretty simple to make but the technique I use here is similar to layering a lasagna. I love to layer the ingredients because it ensures that you get a little bit of everything when you serve it up and take a bite.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to just al dente. Do not overcook or the pasta will not hold up during baking. By undercooking the ziti, it will absorb the flavors of the sauce more readily.
- Saute sausage, mushrooms and onions in a skillet until golden brown. Drain and set aside.
- Stir in half the sauce with the sausage mixture and set aside.
- Beat together ricotta cheese, heavy cream and parmesan cheese.
- Shred up the mozzarella
- Layer all the ingredients in a baking dish (see recipe instructions for how-to).
- Bake at 425 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
How To Make It In Advance
You can prepare the Baked Ziti recipe ahead of time and it’s even freezer friendly. Just assemble as per the instructions in the recipe card, cover tightly with plastic wrap and foil. Then either refrigerate for up to 48 hours or freeze for up to 2 months.
To cook your refrigerated baked ziti, uncover and bake according to the instructions.
To cook your frozen baked ziti, uncover and remove the plastic wrap. Coat one side of the aluminum foil with cooking spray and lightly cover your baked ziti. Bake at 425 degrees for 60-90 minutes or until baked through. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, uncovered.
You can use penne in place of the ziti in this simple Baked Ziti recipe. The only difference between penne and ziti is the penne pasta has ridges on the sides which actually helps hold the sauce to the pasta a little better.
Now this recipe is a little more involved than maybe the Baked Ziti the Pioneer Woman makes….it’s more like a Giada Baked Ziti recipe because everything is from scratch. I like to use this Marinara recipe but any of your favorite jarred sauces would work well, too.
What To Serve It With
This Baked Ziti with Sausage and Ricotta recipe would go so well with a light salad.…that’s all that’s really needed for this hearty, cheesy comfort dish. If you’re looking for more easy baked Italian pasta dinners you should definitely try THIS Baked Chicken Florentine Pasta or THIS Baked Gnocchi Bolognese.
More Easy Pasta Recipes
Some more carb-y favorites of ours are this Pasta Primavera which is ready in minutes or you could try THIS easy pasta salad. I’d eat it for dinner any day of the week as a side for a simple grilled chicken.
Want something even easier with the same great flavor? This Crock Pot Baked Ziti is amazing!
Don’t forget to follow us over on Instagram for even more easy recipes!
Get the Recipe: The Very Best Baked Ziti Recipe
- 8 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 4 ounces button mushrooms, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 cups marinara sauce
- 1 pound ricotta
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan, Plus more for grating before serving
- 1 pound ziti
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into bite sized pieces
- Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Place a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the pot and cook to just al dente, approximately 7 minutes. Drain the pasta. Set aside.
- Cook the sausage in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat breaking up into pieces with a fork until no longer pink. Transfer the sausage to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Drain off all but two tablespoons fat from the pan.
- Add the onion and mushrooms to the pan and cook until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Add the tomato paste and cook the mixture until it turns a deep crimson color, approximately 2-3 minutes. Stir in the marinara and remove from the heat.
- In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, heavy cream and parmesan cheese.
- Place the pasta in a large bowl and stir in 2 cups of the sauce.
- Spread a bit of the sauce on the bottom of a 3 quart baking side and top with 1/3 of the pasta.
- Spread 1/3 of the remaining sauce on top and then top with 1/2 the sausage and 1/2 the ricotta mixture.
- Sprinkle with 1/2 the mozzarella and then repeat the layers beginning with the pasta.
- Sprinkle the top layer with a bit more parmesan and place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with foil (for easy clean up)
- Bake 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
19 Comments on “The Best Baked Ziti”
Ah girl. You nailed the “cheese pull”! 😉 I love trying to get that shot. This looks fabulous.
Italian food is my favorite and it isn’t often we indulge in a baked pasta dish. Love the flavors here!
I love baked ziti, such a great comfort food! This recipe gets all of the best flavors in one dish!
I am excited to make this! Two things: Hamburger will be ok right? But only 8 ounces? Half a pound? Or is a pound ok?
And will cottage cheese work instead of ricotta ?
ok THREE things:)
Will milk be ok instead of heavy cream? I am only making changes because that is what I have on hand….
Thanks for the help!! No onto your Cheesy Taco Pasta Skillet!!
It’s gonna be a great week!!
So, hamburger will work, I haven’t tried cottage cheese but definitely give it a go. And if you use milk it may be a little thin but should still work. 🙂
I used a pound of hamburger as well and just spruced it up with onion, garlic, Italian seasoning and oregano. I also used sour cream instead of heavy cream since I didn’t have any. Worked perfectly!! Cheesy goodness is a God in our household
Ooooo, love the sour cream idea! I bet it made it slightly tangy in such a good way! Cheesy goodness is a God here, too! Thank you for commenting.
This is epic comfort food! Love all that cheesy deliciousness!
Baked ziti is the way to go as we transition into fall! So comforting!
This is a perfect recipe for a crowd! We have a lot of family, including 7 grandkids, coming in March for a long ski weekend. This is on the menu!!!! It’s perfect after a day of skiing.
IT really is!! So hearty.
My fork is poised to pierce the screen….this looks SO, SO good!
And it has just about enough cheese for me!
That ricotta cheese looks amazing in this recipe! Such a comforting dish for the winter!
Thank you! That’s my favorite part. 🙂
I am sure my family will love this!!
In the oven now! Fingers crossed. I added basil, a Pecorino & Parmesan blend and I made my own ricotta since I was out of it. Super easy.
4 cups whole milk boiled to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, stir
Add 1 1/2 Tbsps. White vinegar and bring back up to 160. Heat off let stand for 10 minutes.
Ladle curds onto a sieve lined with cheesecloth or muslin. (I used a clean flour sack dish towel)
Sprinkle with sea salt. Done!
The ziti is smelling amazing! Thank you for the recipe!
I LOVE that you made your own ricotta!
I followed the recipe and my family ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!!
I’ll be making it again!!! Thank you!!
This is definitely a favorite here….so glad you loved it and thank you for commenting!