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Warm, comforting and amazing, this is an easy-to-make classic Baked Ziti recipe filled with Italian Sausage, tomato sauce, and cheese to the max! This recipe is especially indulgent with a side of Homemade Garlic Bread.
Baked Ziti Basics
Love Lasagna but hate the time it takes to make it? Baked Ziti offers all of the same flavors and comforts that lasagna does but with way less effort. Meaty tomato sauce, filling pasta, and all of that melted gooey cheese! Today’s classic Baked Ziti recipe makes a large 9×13 pan which is perfect for large families or to use as leftovers! While I have my Instant Pot Baked Ziti on the blog (that is super popular), I thought I should post a more classic recipe that everyone can make. No special equipment needed!
Do I have to use Ziti Pasta?
No. This is just a specific pasta shape, penne would work perfectly well in its place. You can use what you have on hand or what you prefer in this recipe.
Baked Ziti Variations
Everyone has their secret tips and tricks in making Baked Ziti their own and in this house, I encourage it! Feel free to use my recipe as a base then customize to your liking. Here are a couple of options to get you started:
- Vegetarian Baked Ziti: feel free to make this a vegetarian meal by leaving out any meat products and then supplementing with more veggies!
- Adding Vegetables: you can absolutely use/hide vegetables in this dish. Consider wilting spinach, adding shredded zucchini, or shredded carrots to this dish! Or serve your vegetables on the side!
- Using Different Meat: although I use a pork Italian sausage for this baked ziti recipe, you can absolutely replace it with ground beef or ground turkey.
How to Make Baked Ziti
For full details on how to make baked ziti can be found in the recipe card down below 🙂
Boil the Pasta
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook ziti according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Brown the Meat
In another pot or deep skillet with high sides, heat the pan over medium heat. Brown sausage, breaking apart as it cooks. Drain if desired. Replace back in the pan. To the cooked sausage, add olive oil, onion, and garlic and saute until mostly tender.
Make the Sauce
Stir in diced tomatoes, marinara sauce, water, basil, oregano, bay leaves, salt, pepper. Stir well. Cover and simmer. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings. Remove bay leaves.
Add cooked ziti to the sauce and stir to coat. Add in fresh mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Stir to melt slightly.
Pour into lightly greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese, cover with lightly greased foil and bake. Top with chopped parsley (optional) and serve hot.
Storing Baked Ziti
Baked Ziti will last in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 4-5 days! Which means it’s great for leftovers and meal prep. Alternatively you can make a double batch and freeze one portion for later!
One of the best parts about Baked Ziti is that it can be frozen to last even longer and make a super easy dinner for the future, I love when that happens!
Simply double the recipe, bake one portion, and with the other store in a freezable container before baking (those aluminum casserole dishes found at the grocery store would work great for this). Be sure to cover tightly with aluminium foil and then plastic wrap before freezing. Freeze for up to 3 months.
When ready to bake, thaw in the fridge overnight then bake as accordingly!
Comforting Pasta Recipes to Try!
Try this Baked Ziti soon, I just know you’ll love it!
The recipe card is down below, enjoy 🙂
Classic Baked Ziti
- 1 lb ziti pasta
- 1.25 lbs Sweet Italian Sausage
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 25 oz marinara sauce I used Rao's
- 14.5 oz petite diced tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- salt & pepper to taste
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella drained and cut into cubes
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 cup part skim mozzarella shredded
- Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook ziti according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- In another pot or deep skillet with high sides, heat pan over medium heat. Brown sausage, breaking apart as it cooks. Drain if desired. Replace back in the pan. To the cooked sausage, add olive oil, onion, and garlic and saute until mostly tender, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in diced tomatoes, marinara sauce, water, basil, oregano, bay leaves, salt, pepper. Stir well. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings. Remove bay leaves.
- Add cooked ziti to sauce and stir to coat. Add in fresh mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Stir to melt slightly. Pour into lightly greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle with 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, cover with lightly greased foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Top with chopped parsley (optional) and serve hot.
Can you make this ahead and bake it the next day?
Hi Lauren! If I love tomato flavor but not chunks of tomatoes, what can I use instead of diced? Sauce? Or can that just be omitted since there’s already marinara??
This recipe looks really good & easy to make the only question I have is do I have to use maniera sauce in order to make it or can I use any kind of sauce that I have?
Hi Dawn, definitely use whatever you have on hand. Homemade would be amazing!
Cooked this for the first time tonight for dinner! Really enjoyed making it! I used hamburger meat instead of sausage and it turned out very delicious! My husband and I really enjoyed it! Very good flavor and taste!
Literally the best baked ziti recipe! My toddlers are super picky when it comes to food. Even they enjoyed it & asked for seconds!
Did you use fresh diced tomatoes or a can of diced tomatoes?
a can of diced tomatoes
I chose this recipe to make baked Ziti for first time for daughters birthday dinner and it turned out delicious!!
Sooooo delicious!! Family loved it! Best ziti yet! Thanks
Can you give instructions on cooking in crockpot
I had so much joy making this for our family today. It smells amazing and tastes delicious. Thanks for sharing this recipe!
Delicious! Definitely use Rao’s, Lucky me, I had a jar I bought on clearance.
Love this recipe! Very easy and delicious!
Love this recipe. I cannot believe you used Rao’s we just got it here at Costco in Canada. Have bought and used it and it is good. I read up on it and all about it’s beginning’s. Will now get a reservation there when this virus is all over and we are able to visit the U.S. again. Thank you for this amazing recipe.