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Baked Ziti Casserole Recipe

Baked ziti is a staple of Italian-American cuisine. It is similar to a traditional lasagna casserole but easier to cook and doesn’t have as many layers or broken noodles. So if you like to eat lasagna but don’t want to deal with the mess, try baked Ziti instead.

Making baked Ziti sounds like fun but could quickly spiral into a mess if you’re not familiar with the ideal cooking procedure and cooking time for optimal results. This article will provide all you need to get the best out of baked ziti recipes.

Tips for your best baked ziti

Follow these guidelines to prepare your best baked ziti.

Choose the right cheese

While most Ziti may be cooked with only one type of cheese, most often mozzarella, using just one type of cheese lacks depth and creativity. For the greatest baked ziti outcomes, there are four popular cheese options:

  • Mozzarella cheese, because it’s easy to melt
  • Parmesan cheese, because of its saltiness
  • Ricotta cheese, particularly Italian ricotta cheese, for its sweeter flavor than American ricotta
  • Provolone cheese because of its mild and creamy texture

Don’t let your Ziti dry out

Two causes of dried-out Ziti are:

  • Not enough sauce
  • Overcooked noodles

Ziti noodles will continue to cook in the oven, so make sure you don’t overcook them in the water. It probably won’t take more than six minute to reach an al dente texture — which may seem slightly underdone.

Don’t cover it

Bake the pasta uncovered to avoid steaming and to allow for a nice, browned top.

Freeze it right

To freeze your baked ziti, allow it to cool on the counter until it reaches a temperature of around 70°F (no longer than 2 hours). Once the ziti has cooled, wrap it in foil and place it in the freezer.

Reheat properly

You’ll get the best results by moving the baked ziti from the freezer to the refrigerator 24 hours before cooking. Remove any covering, then bake for 60 to 70 minutes at 350°F. Remove the foil and bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out hot and the cheese has melted thoroughly.

Substitute noodles as needed

If you don’t have ziti noodles on hand, use penne instead. They’re thinner and longer, but they’ll still hold the sauce.

Cooking time for baked ziti

Baked ziti is versatile enough to make the day you plan to eat it or well ahead. Below are the cook times based on whether you’re cooking it right away, or keeping it in the refrigerator or freezer temporarily.

  • From frozen: Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours, then bake uncovered at 350°F for 60 to 70 minutes.
  • From the refrigerator: Remove covering and bake at 350°F for 55 to 65 minutes.
  • Baking immediately after assembly: Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes.
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Baked Ziti Casserole Recipe

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  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 Servings 1x


Units Scale
  • 1lb ziti pasta
  • olive oil
  • 1lb bulk Italian sausage
  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 3 garlic cloves (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil (minced)
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (32 ounces) jar marinara sauce
  • 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 heaping cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add ziti and cook according to package directions until al dente (you want the noodles to be edible but still firm). Drain and toss the noodles with a little bit of olive oil to prevent them from sticking together.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook while breaking up into chunks with a spatula or spoon until the sausage is browned. Add onions and stir well to combine. Sauté until the onions are translucent and beginning to brown (about 4-5 minutes). Add garlic, basil, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute and then add the marinara sauce and stir well. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread a thin layer of the sauce onto the bottom of a greased 9×13 inch baking dish. Dot the surface of the sauce with ricotta cheese. Add a ladle of the sauce into the pasta and stir well. Add the pasta into the casserole dish on top of the ricotta.
  4. Pour the remaining sauce over the pasta and dot with the remaining ricotta cheese. Sprinkle the top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
  5. Place into the oven and bake until the top is lightly browned and the cheese has melted (about 20 minutes).
  • Author: Bobby
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Italian
  • Method: Stovetop/Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian