This scrumptious Baked Ziti recipe is easy enough for a family weekday supper yet impressive enough for entertaining company. It's chocked full of flavor and the kind of satisfying meal that makes it good to come home to.
Easy Baked Ziti Recipe
This recipe for baked ziti is one that I tend to return to over and over again. I love these sorts of family friendly pasta casseroles as they can be assembled in advance and chilled until you're ready to bake it. In fact, the Italian flavors become even more robust it seems when made in advance.
How to Make the Best Baked Ziti Recipe
This is an extremely flavorful baked ziti. The combination of ground beef and Italian sausage plus the seasoning blend that's reminiscent of meatballs adds so much dimension and depth if flavor to the dish overall.
- Ingredients you'll need to make homemade Baked Ziti: 1 pound box of ziti, ground beef, Italian sausage, olive oil, diced onion, salt, black pepper, Italian seasoning, granulated garlic, red pepper flakes, ricotta cheese, jarred marinara sauce, grated Parmesan cheese and shredded mozzarella cheese or shredded Italian blend cheese.
- Kitchen gadgets you'll need: A 13 x 9 inch baking dish, mixing bowl, large pot or Dutch oven, pasta pot, sharp knife and cutting board, measuring cups and spoons.
- When cooking the ziti take care not to overcook it to start with and it will maintain its integrity when baking.
- You can use equal parts or half Italian sausage and half ground beef if that's your preference. You can also make this ziti casserole using only one or the other.
- If you use a lean ground beef there will be less excess fat to drain from the pot before adding the remaining ingredients.
- The flavor of this dish is tied to the marinara sauce used. Use your favorite homemade marinara or store-bought brand and you'll be good to go.
- I highly recommend taking the time to use a block of mozzarella cheese and grate it yourself. It melts more easily and the flavor of freshly grated cheese is superior.
- There is just the very slightest hint of spice in the sauce. If you'd like to turn up the heat add more pepper flakes or use spicy Italian sausage.
- I like to use fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese but you can use whatever variety you like. Pecorino Romano would also be fantastic.
- How long do you cook baked ziti? This recipe will take 40-45 minutes to bake. It should be bubbly around the edge, heated through and the cheese fully melted and beginning to brown.
- This Baked Ziti can be fully assembled one day in advance and chilled. When doing so, allow 15-20 minutes on the counter prior to baking or lengthen the baking time to accommodate.
- Keep any leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days. Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Reheat any leftovers in the oven covered with foil until warmed through or you can just microwave each single portion as you want to eat it.
Southern Style Side Dishes to Serve with Baked Ziti
There are so many options here that you can serve along with baked ziti to make it a complete meal. Some side dish recipes you may like to try:
- Seven Layer Salad can be assembled in advance and chilled until you're ready to eat.
- Garlic Parmesan Pull Apart Rolls are perfectly shareable.
- Roasted Panko Parmesan Broccoli is topped with an easy crumb topping that bakes crispy and golden.
- A loaf of Cheesy Garlic Bread is always a classic side for Italian food.
- Green Bean Casserole would be a delicious option.
- Marinated Italian Vegetable Salad from Iowa Girl Eats.
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Helpful Kitchen Items:
- 1 16 oz box ziti cooked to al dente
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef
- ½ lb Italian sausage casings removed
- 1 medium onion diced
- 4 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese divided use
- 1 ½ teaspoon dry Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 32 oz jar marinara sauce, plus 1 cup
- 1 15 oz container ricotta cheese
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese OR Italian cheese blend
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Cook ziti in salted water per the package directions until al dente. Drain well and set aside.
- In a large pot or Dutch oven cook olive oil and onion for 2 minutes over medium high or just until softened and translucent.
- Meanwhile, in a bowl season ground beef and Italian sausage with 2 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, salt, black pepper, garlic and red pepper flakes. Add to onion in pot, cooking over medium-high heat until no pink remains. Drain excess fat from the pan.
- Add marinara sauce and ziti to pot, Mix until evenly coated.
- Pour ½ into prepared dish. Dollop with ½ of ricotta cheese. Sprinkle ricotta with 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese. Repeat with remaining ziti, dollops of ricotta and drizzle with 1 cup marinara sauce.
- Sprinkle the top with reserved 1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese and 2 tablespoon Parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 40-45 or until bubbly and golden. Serve immediately.