Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti with ground beef, Italian sausage, ricotta, and Parmesan is a delicious and hearty meal. Enjoy a classic ziti casserole with meat, cheese, and tomato sauce for a comforting pasta dinner any day of the week.

baked ziti in bowls and baking dish

Baked ziti is one of my favorite comfort foods. It’s budget-friendly, tastes amazing, and is a great dish to prepare in advance. Better yet, make two batches and eat one and freeze the other for later.

Is Baked Ziti the Same as Lasagna?

This tasty baked ziti recipe is a layered creation of pasta, ricotta, meat sauce, and Italian blend cheese. It’s similar to lasagna in this way, but it’s not nearly as time-consuming. Instead of long lasagna noodles, ziti pasta is used instead. Think of it as lasagna with a lot less fuss. 

This easy baked ziti recipe can be made ahead of time for a weeknight dinner, but it’s also special enough for when you have company over. And, it’s a great prep-ahead dish for potlucks.

In this recipe, the cooked pasta is combined with olive oil, eggs, and parmesan cheese. Ground beef and Italian sausage form the basis for the meat layer, which is flavored with onion, mushrooms, and bacon. Pasta sauce and ricotta, and Italian blend cheese round out the ingredients. 

Baked Ziti with ground beef and sausage has layers of zesty and flavorful meat sauce, tender ziti noodles, and ricotta cheese. It tastes like you’ve been cooking all day but is surprisingly quick to make!

What Is Italian Blend Cheese?

Italian blend grated cheese contains both grated parmigiana reggiano and pecorino romano. Some blends also include mozzarella and provolone. Using a cheese blend is a convenient time-saver. 

What Can I Substitute for Ricotta Cheese in Baked Ziti?

This recipe is for baked ziti with ricotta. Ricotta cheese is a traditional component of baked ziti, but it can get dry and grainy when baked. You can substitute heavy cream instead to add richness. You can also swap it out by using cottage cheese or blending cottage cheese with an egg until smooth.

Baked Ziti Tips for the Cook

  • You can use ziti or any short-length tube-shaped pasta like rigatoni or penne in this easy-baked ziti recipe.
  • Boil the ziti noodles in salted water until very al dente. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven, so you want to undercook it somewhat.
  • Many grocery stores sell Italian sausage in bulk, which consists of ground sausage minus the casings. If you can’t find it, you can ask your butcher to take the meat out of the casings or do it yourself. The easiest way (but a bit messy) to get the meat out is to cut the sausage link in half and then squeeze out the meat. 
  • Use a potato masher to easily crumble the sausage.
  • If you want a meat layer with more of a kick, go for Italian hot sausage.
  • Do you bake ziti covered or uncovered? Bake it uncovered at 350°F for about 25 minutes or until the cheese is melty and gooey. 
  • Baked ziti is very flexible. You can add vegetables like green pepper and zucchini or any leftover veggies you were wondering what to do with.

What Can You Serve With This Easy Baked Ziti Recipe?

This hearty pasta bake makes a fabulous meal with a simple green salad and crusty garlic bread. Other good sides are roasted broccoli, green beans, roasted asparagus, Caprese salad, and bruschetta.

Make-Ahead

This dish can be assembled, covered, and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance. Because the dish will be cold, the baking time will need to be increased. To bake, cover tightly with aluminum foil, place in a 425°F oven for 25 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned and the pasta is hot throughout.

Freezer-Friendly Instructions – This pasta dish can be frozen unbaked. When you’re ready to cook, defrost it in the refrigerator for 24 hours, then proceed with the make-ahead instructions above.

Freezing Baked Ziti? – Like most casseroles, leftover baked ziti can be successfully frozen in freezer bags for an easy-peasy lunch for school or work.

Reheating Your Baked Ziti – You can use either your microwave or your oven – medium heat for about 30 minutes or until heated through. After reheating baked ziti, the texture or flavor doesn’t change, but adding an extra layer of shredded cheese (such as mozzarella) to the top freshens it up just a bit!

Baked Ziti Recipe Ingredients

Here’s a list of what you need:

  • Ziti pasta
  • Ground beef chuck
  • Italian sausage
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Bacon
  • Onion
  • Mushrooms
  • Italian seasoning
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Olive oil
  • Eggs
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Pasta sauce
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Shredded Italian blend cheese
Baked ziti ingredients on a tray

How to Make Baked Ziti

  1. Sauté the ground beef, Italian sausage, and bacon in a pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Season the meat with salt and pepper.
  3. While the meat is cooking, chop onion and mushrooms and add them to the pan.
  4. Add Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes to the meat. Stir to combine.
    cooked ground beef, Italian sausage, bacon, and onions in a skillet
  5. When the meat has browned, remove it from the pan, and drain grease if necessary.
  6. Cook the ziti according to package directions.
  7. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water once the ziti has finished cooking.
  8. Drain the pasta and place it into a large bowl.
  9. Add olive oil, eggs, and Parmesan cheese to the ziti. Stir to combine.
    cooked ziti pasta, egg, and parmesan cheese mixture in a bowl
  10. Place pasta sauce and pasta water into a separate large bowl and stir to combine.
  11. Ladle just enough sauce to cover the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
  12. Add half of the cooked ziti to the dish.
  13. Place dollops of ricotta cheese on top of the ziti.
    baked ziti ricotta cheese layer
  14. Spoon half of the meat over the ricotta cheese.
  15. Sprinkle half of the shredded Italian blend cheese on top.
  16. Pour enough sauce into the dish to cover the meat.
  17. Place the remaining pasta on top.
  18. Place the remaining meat on the pasta.
  19. Sprinkle the remaining Italian cheese on top.
  20. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
bowls of baked ziti and forks

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baked ziti in bowls and baking dish

Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti with ground beef, sausage, ricotta, and Italian cheese is an easy and delicious casserole recipe to make anytime.
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Baked Ziti
Servings: 12
Calories: 453kcal

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces ziti pasta
  • 1/2 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 ounce bacon chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes add more if you like it spicy
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 14 ounces pasta sauce
  • 1 cup pasta water
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups shredded Italian blend cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Sauté the ground beef, Italian sausage, and bacon in a pan over medium-high heat.
  • Season the meat with salt and pepper.
  • While the meat is cooking, chop onion and mushrooms and add them to the pan.
  • Add Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes to the pan. Stir to combine.
  • When the meat has cooked thoroughly, remove it from the pan, and drain excess grease if necessary.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
  • Add the ziti to the boiling water and cook it according to package directions.
  • Reserve 1 cup of pasta water for the casserole once the pasta has finished cooking.
  • Drain the pasta.
  • Place cooked ziti into a large bowl.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 2 beaten eggs, and 1 cup of Parmesan cheese to the ziti. Stir well to combine all ingredients.
  • Place pasta sauce into a separate large bowl with the 1 cup of reserved pasta water. Stir to combine to create a thin sauce.
  • Ladle just enough sauce to cover the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
  • Add half of the cooked ziti to the dish.
  • Spoon ricotta cheese on top of the ziti. The dollops will melt while cooking.
  • Spoon half of the meat mixture over the ricotta cheese.
  • Sprinkle half of the shredded Italian blend cheese on top of the meat mixture.
  • Pour just enough sauce in the dish to cover the meat.
  • Place the remaining pasta on top.
  • Place the remaining meat on the pasta.
  • Sprinkle the remaining Italian cheese on top.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, until heated through and the cheese on the top is melted and lightly browned.

Nutrition

Calories: 453kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 87mg | Sodium: 669mg | Potassium: 388mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 425IU | Vitamin C: 3.9mg | Calcium: 264mg | Iron: 1.9mg
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About Stephanie Manley

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of CopyKat.com's Dining Out in the Home, and CopyKat.com's Dining Out in the Home 2.

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Sheri B.

    Sounds yummy!
    BUT,
    I have no idea where to get 3 cups shredded Italian blend cheese. I live in Southern California
    I searched the internet and nothing.
    Is there some other cheese blend that I can buy and put together?
    Would I do 1 cup of one kind one cup of another kind and 1 cup of another kind?

    • Stephanie Manley

      This is found in most grocery stores in the shredded cheese section. It is a mixture of mozzarella, asiago, and parmesan. You could swap this out if you shred Mozzarella cheese and then add in some Parmesan, it isn’t quite the same, but if you don’t want to do this, just swap that out for shredded Mozzarella.

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