Baked Ziti

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Ultimate Italian Baked Ziti creamy casserole with a homemade meat sauce, super EASY to make and super cheesy (three cheeses!) filling in under an hour.

Baked Ziti is the ultimate in Italian Casserole dishes and I’d feel like I was holding back if I didn’t tell you that if you love this ziti I need you to try our Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti and Ultimate Meat Lasagna. They’re basically all best friends in the cheesy meat pasta category.


If you love layered pasta casserole, don’t limit yourself to lasagna. Baked ziti is lasagna’s delicious cousin and a long-time favorite comfort food. Because of the savory richness of the cheese, meat and sauce it’s very filling and great for large gatherings.


Also, the baked ziti you made last night tastes even better as leftovers, so save some for later. If this is your first time building a pasta casserole, don’t worry. Baked ziti is easy to make and the steps are easy to follow.

How to Make Baked Ziti

Start out by cooking the pasta in a large pot for one minute shorter than the directions on the bag tell you to. This is so your pasta turns out al dente, or slightly firm when you bite it. Then, combine your ground beef and onions together in a dutch oven until the ground beef is cooked through. Add your marinara sauce and let it simmer, then take half of the ziti and set it in a casserole dish. Then, layer your meat sauce, cheeses, and the other half of the ziti on top. All that’s left after that is to put it in the oven and relax for 30 minutes while it bakes.

If you liked this pasta recipe and want to try more like it, you should look up our Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup, Easy Skillet Baked Ziti, or our Chicken Parmesan Pasta.


  • Italian sausage: try switching out your ground beef for Italian sausage. The sausage has a  different texture than the ground beef, and the meat’s Italian seasoning makes for a delicious variation.
  • Ricotta cheese: A favorite for lasagna fans, ricotta cheese melts differently than our cheese mixture.
  • Fresh Basil: Adding just a pinch of chopped fresh basil to the top of your baked ziti compliments the richness of the tomato sauce. You can also sprinkle on some oregano and red pepper flakes as well.
  • Garlic Cloves: Dice up a few garlic cloves and mix them in with the ground beef and sauce before layering the pasta.

More Classic Italian Recipes:


Now that you have your main course, here are some delicious recipes to try for your side dishes.

  • Garlic Bread: whoever first thought about combining butter, garlic cloves and bread deserves a medal. Garlic bread is a delicious side that is perfect for soaking up every last bit of pasta sauce.
  • Spinach Artichoke Dip Cheesy Bread: if you’re a little burned out on garlic bread but like the idea of something more exciting than plain dinner rolls, this is a delicious recipe to try out.
  • Green Bean Almondine: a healthy, crunchy, tasty side that goes with just about everything.
  • Corn Succotash: you can make this on the stove top while the ziti is baking, which is convenient and easy.

And for dessert you can have an Easy Vanilla Cake or Red Velvet Cake!

White casserole dish with Italian Baked Ziti

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What’s the difference between rigatoni and ziti? Ziti is usually thinner than rigatoni, and rigatoni is shorter and can have a little bit of a bend to it. Ziti is also similar to penne pasta, but you can always tell penne apart by its angled edges. For this particular pasta dish, using ziti is a must.


“Ziti” comes from the word “zita,” which is short for “maccheroni di zita.” “Maccheroni di zita,” or “macaroni of the bride” in Italian, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, was a favorite meal at weddings, because of how easy it is to make and how simple it is to adjust the serving size to feed a lot of people.


Casseroles are considered fully cooked and ready to eat at 165 degrees F (73.9 degrees C) according to the USDA’s website. Because it has meat in it, it is important to get the baked ziti up to the correct temperature before serving, so check with a probe thermometer before you dig in. Also, if you intend to freeze or refrigerate the baked ziti, make sure to let the pasta completely cool to room temperature before you put it away.


  • Serve: don’t leave baked ziti out at room temperature for any longer than two hours.
  • Store: you can refrigerate any leftovers for up to 3 days.
  • Freeze: If you seal your pasta in an airtight container, it will be good for up to 3 months.

This baked ziti recipe is a classic Italian-American comfort food that is hearty, filling and great for crowds. Great for both potluck dinners and cozy nights in.

Baking pan of baked ziti casserole

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Baked Ziti

5 from 7 votes
  • Yield: 12 servings
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Course: Main Dish, pasta
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Author: Sabrina Snyder

Ultimate Italian Baked Ziti creamy casserole with a homemade meat sauce, super EASY to make and super cheesy (three cheeses!) filling in under an hour.


  • 1 pound dry ziti pasta
  • 1 yellow onion , chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef , (85/15)
  • 6 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese , shredded
  • 8 slices provolone cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese , shredded


Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

  1. Cook pasta one minute shy of the directions and drain.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Add beef and onions to a large dutch oven and cook until beef is fully cooked on medium high.
  4. Add in marinara sauce and let simmer for 20 minutes on medium heat.

  5. Layer in 9x13 baking dish in order: half the pasta, half the meat sauce, all the sour cream, 1/2 the mozzarella, all of the provolone cheese, the rest of the pasta, the rest of the meat sauce, the rest of the mozzarella and all of the Parmesan cheese.

  6. Bake uncovered, on a baking sheet, for 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.

Nutrition Information

Yield: 12 servings, Amount per serving: 271 calories, Calories: 271g, Carbohydrates: 9g, Protein: 18g, Fat: 18g, Saturated Fat: 10g, Cholesterol: 65mg, Sodium: 975mg, Potassium: 617mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 985g, Vitamin C: 9.5g, Calcium: 291g, Iron: 2.3g

All images and text © for Dinner, then Dessert.

Keywords: Baked Ziti, How to Make Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti in a white dish

About the Author

Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

See more posts by Sabrina

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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    1. It’s just for the creaminess for the cheese mixture. You could substitute ricotta if you don’t like sour cream. It won’t be as tangy but sounds like you may enjoy it more.

  1. There are no actual comments as to how this recipe turned out for anyone. My chief concern is that it’s baked ‘uncovered’, so I’m wondering if it turns out dry. Personally, I’d cook it covered, then uncover it for the last 15 minutes or so. Any suggestions? This is a great dish to bring to an ‘event’, so I don’t want to mess it up.

    1. I baked it uncovered with no issue of it drying out but you can do a half and half covering if you prefer. 🙂

  2. I love this classic recipe! So full of flavor and is always a family favorite meal! Looking forward to making this tonight!

  3. Coming from an Italian background, this is one of my favorite meals. Nothing beats a good ziti. You had me at 3 cheeses!

  4. There is just nothing like a great baked ziti dish. I love all the different varieties you’ve suggested to change it up a bit! Yum!