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.
If you’re looking for more Pasta Recipes, we’ve got over 100 for you to pick from!
How to Make Baked Ziti
- Cook 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.
- 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.
- 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 or Easy Skillet Baked Ziti.
More Classic Italian Recipes:
And for dessert you can have an Easy Vanilla Cake or Red Velvet Cake!
- 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. You can use a Sweet Italian Sausage or a classic ground pork, they’re both very flavorful.
- Ricotta cheese: A favorite for lasagna fans, ricotta cheese would bring in more of a lasagna flair. You could also use cottage cheese or cream cheese.
- 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.
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RIGATONI VS ZITI
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.
WHAT GOES WITH BAKED ZITI?
WHERE DOES BAKED ZITI GET ITS NAME?
“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.
SAFE COOKING TEMPERATURES
Casseroles are considered fully cooked and ready to eat at 165 degrees F (73.9 degrees C) according to the USDA’s website. 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.
STORING BAKED ZITI
- 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.
- 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
- Cook pasta one minute shy of the directions and drain.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Add beef and onions to a large dutch oven and cook until beef is fully cooked on medium high.
- Add in marinara sauce and let simmer for 20 minutes on medium heat.
- Layer in 9x13 baking dish in order: half the pasta, half the meat sauce, all the sour cream, ½ 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.
- Bake uncovered, on a baking sheet, for 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.
Pictures from original publishing date of 6/2019
The best dinner! The whole family loved it! So cheesy too!
Baked Ziti is such a great party dish. Perfect for potlucks and family get togethers. Your recipe is delicious and I’ll definitely have to put this on the regular rotation!
I’m honored that you love it so much that it’s into a regular rotation! Thank you for coming back to let me know.
This is one of our favorite recipes! And one that everyone loves which is rare!
That definitely sounds like a winner! Thanks for the 5 stars, Lauren.
This is so good!! Quickly became a favorite meal at my house!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
This is such a great addition to our weeknight favorites!
Thanks for the 5 stars, Toni.
My family loves baked ziti!! There are never leftovers & it’s super easy to make!
I’m glad your family loves it!
This was so delicious and easy! My family and I love this recipe! Can’t wait to make this again!
Thanks for the 5 star rating, Beth.
The absolute BEST! My son never eats anything with sauce and he loved it! My husband rarely eats leftovers and he ate it for lunch and dinner until it was gone! They’ve both requested it a week later. It’s a total hit! Thank you!!!
Sounds like a winner to me!
Huge hit at my daughter’s first birthday party!! I added extra beef (Almost double) and cut back the sauce a bit for a thicker sauce. Everyone thought I ordered it from a fancy restaurant. I got lots of compliments, will definitely be a go to for other parties.
Has anyone made this the day before, refrigerated it and then baked the next day? Wondering if it would come out mushy. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
I would cut the baking time a little early, so the noodles are just shy of al dente. That way they will keep their form when reheating. Hope this helps!
Yuuummmmmm! This was so delicious and easy to make. We had leftovers too which we ate quickly! ? Thanks for sharing!
So glad you liked it! Leftovers don’t last long here either 😀
Made tonight family LOVED it! Thanks for another Great recipe!
Yay! I love to hear that! Thanks for letting me know & the 5 stars!
The whole family loved it! Hubby said, “I’ve had ziti at restaurants that wasn’t this good”.
Awesome! I love hearing stuff like that – I use it to let my kids know what cool mom they have haha 🙂
Can you tell me the purpose of the sour cream? I am not a fan but I want to try this recipe.
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.
Very good the family loved it thanks for a great meal that well use time again
So glad everyone loved it.
very easy to make, the receipe does not say wether to drain the ground beef or not.
If you’re using a beef that has a higher fat content, feel free to drain it. 🙂
Can I sub. fresh mozzarella or ricotta cheese for the sour cream? Thanks!
Ricotta will melt a bit differently but both would work as a substitution. Enjoy!
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.
I baked it uncovered with no issue of it drying out but you can do a half and half covering if you prefer. 🙂
It does not turn out dry. It’s perfect!
Family loved it.
I’ve made twice already.
Oh yes, this looks absolutely delicious!
I love this classic recipe! So full of flavor and is always a family favorite meal! Looking forward to making this tonight!
I’m so glad you guys enjoyed it! Thanks for coming back to let me know!
Coming from an Italian background, this is one of my favorite meals. Nothing beats a good ziti. You had me at 3 cheeses!
I’m honored to get your approval!
I make this dish a lot. My family loves it and it has become a favorite. So delicious!!!!
I love when my family’s favorites becomes another family’s favorites!
Baked ziti is the best! Creamy and pure comfort food! I love all your suggestions to serve with it!
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!