Baked Ziti is a simple and delicious baked pasta dish that never fails to please. This easy baked ziti recipe is extra creamy and cheesy thanks to our secret ingredient. Everything bakes together into something so tasty, no one will be able to resist. It will be the new family favorite for weeknight dinners!
What’s in Easy Baked Ziti
This baked pasta is so simple. There’s just a few ingredients (pasta, sauce, cheese, check!) and a few steps between you and a creamy, cheesy dinner!
- Ziti Pasta: Cook the ziti al dente before adding it into the casserole. You can use penne or another tube shaped pasta instead if that’s what you have on hand.
- Marinara Sauce: Use your favorite jar of sauce, or make this homemade marinara sauce.
- Cream Cheese: This is my secret ingredient that adds a deliciously cheesy and creamy texture to the ziti. Let it soften before mixing into the sauce.
- Cheese: A mix of mozzarella and Parmesan is perfect. Freshly shredded and grated cheese will melt best.
- Basil: Fresh basil adds the perfect flavor. You could also mix in thyme, oregano, or any herbs you like.
You might have noticed there’s no ricotta cheese in this baked ziti recipe. In my experience, cream cheese makes a better substitute because it is so creamy!
Can I add meat to this baked ziti recipe?
This is a meatless ziti recipe, but it’s really easy to add meat if you prefer. Follow the recipe as is, and mix in Italian sausage, ground beef, or ground chicken (brown the meat before adding it in).
Meat or no meat, this is the best baked ziti and everyone will love it!
Bake it covered for the first 30 minutes, then finish baking uncovered.
Yes! If you prefer, substitute meat sauce in place of the marinara.
Cooking the pasta al dente means just until it starts to soften, but still firm to the bite. You don’t want it to be too soft since it will cook in the casserole.
It will bake for a total of around 45 minutes.
The layering of pasta, sauce, and cheese will keep the pasta from drying out in the oven. Keeping it covered for the first part of baking helps too!
Yes! If you prefer to use a slow cooker instead of the oven, follow the instructions for this Crockpot Baked Ziti recipe.
How to Make Ahead and Store Ziti
To Make it Ahead of Time: Follow the recipe as is through Step 7; assemble everything in the baking dish, but stop before baking. Instead, cover the ziti in the casserole dish and refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze for 2 months.
When ready to bake, let it sit out while the oven preheats (fully thaw if frozen). Then just follow the rest of the baking instructions. Cover and bake 30 minutes at 375°F, then bake uncovered for another 15-20 minutes.
To Store: Store leftovers in an airtight container, and keep in the refrigerator up to 4 days. Reheat in the oven or microwave.
How to Freeze Baked Pasta
This pasta makes a great freezer meal! Freeze the unbaked casserole as instructed above if you are making it ahead of time. Or freeze leftovers in a freezer-safe container up to 2 months. Thaw before reheating.
What to Serve with Creamy Baked Ziti
This cheesy pasta dish is a family favorite for weeknight meals. It’s best served with some garlic bread or these Olive Garden style breadsticks. You can also start with a Chicken Caesar Salad, or add zucchini au gratin.
If you make this recipe be sure to upload a photo in the comment section below or leave a rating. Enjoy! You can also jump to recipe.