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 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).
Or you can use your favorite meat sauce in place of the marinara (try this spaghetti sauce). It’s really easy to cook ground beef to mix in with the marinara, and then mix that into the pasta.
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.
Thank you for this recipe! My fam loved it and it was great for my carb-load:)
I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Beth!
This recipe is amazing. I browned Italian sausage and added it the sauce. I make it on cold winter days and have it easily for 2 days for my family.. This recipe makes my kids call me Super Dad
I’m so happy to hear that, Steve!
Hello thanks for sharing this easy cheesy recipe! Love baked ziti and so does my kiddos. I was just wondering is there a way to adapt to crock pot cooking since my stove is down?
Yes! You can view my crockpot baked ziti recipe here (click)!
It was sooooo good! Fed a family of 4 !
Love to hear it!
Found this site by chance (so glad I did!!). I’m making your Easy Creamy Baked Ziti tonight & I know it’ll be a hit with my kiddos 😁 -love your recipes & videos – 🙌🙌🙌 finally found my recipe go to!!!!!!
Hi Natasha! So glad you’re enjoying the recipes. The ziti is definitely a family favorite–it’s hard to resist that baked cheese! I hope the kids loved it.
Thank you for replying!!!! The kiddos LOVED it!!!! I’ve actually made it a couple of more times since this. It’s definitely a fam favorite!!!! Thank you for keeping everything simple to read and follow!!!
This recipe has been a really special recipe for me.
Thanks for stopping by!
Hi! I am looking at all of your freezer meals, prepping for the insanely busy couple of months we are going to have! If I am planning on making these the night of but also wanting to freeze, should I be doubling the recipe or does the original recipes make enough for 2 meals? We are a family of 4 but the kiddos take like 3 bites of what ever and are done 🤦🏻♀️😂 so technically I guess you could say it’s 2 ppl eating!
This recipe comfortably serves 8 adults!
This turned out amazing! Any tips on reheating it?
Reheat in a 350°F oven covered with aluminum foil for 30-40 minutes! You can uncover in the last 5-10 minutes to brown the top, if desired.
Came out just as good as the local Italian restaurant! I did add some pasta water to insure it was really creamy. It worked out great.
Thanks for sharing, Gigi!
Can you use whipped cream cheese?