Easy Baked Ziti Recipe Brings New Meaning To The Word Cheesy

Baked ziti might be your favorite meal to order at an Italian restaurant, but we promise this version you can whip up at home is just as tasty — if not tastier. While baked ziti traditionally includes some type of Italian sausage or ground beef, this recipe yields a meatless version of the popular pasta dish. "I eat mostly vegetarian, so this meal is very up my alley. I would serve this with a big side of salad or roasted broccoli," says recipe developer and private practice registered dietician Kristen Carli of Camelback Nutrition & Wellness. 

This baked ziti recipe calls for all of 10 minutes of prep work, then 30 minutes of cook time. It's extremely easy and does not involve a lot of ingredients or fancy kitchen gadgets. It's basically a combo of pasta, cheese, and sauce. Let's be honest: Is there anything better than that for a comforting, home-cooked meal? Read on for hacks on making the best baked ziti possible, and making "Meatless Mondays" your favorite night of the week.

Gather the ingredients to make this delicious baked ziti

Gather the ingredients so you have everything you need. For this meatless baked ziti recipe, you should have one pound of rigatoni pasta ("Rigatoni is traditionally used in baked ziti," Carli confirms.), a 24-ounce jar of marinara sauce; 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese (divided), 16 ounces of ricotta cheese, and grated Parmesan cheese for serving.

You need to cook the pasta before proceeding to the next step. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the pasta. Cook it according to package directions, then drain and set it aside. Carli notes, "Pasta should be al dente."

Make the sauce

After you've cooked the pasta, you can move on to creating the cheese-infused marinara sauce for the baked ziti. Combine the ricotta cheese, marinara sauce, and 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella cheese in a medium-sized bowl. Mix everything together so that it is thoroughly combined.

Of course, keep in mind that the marinara is the key ingredient here, so make sure you have a good one. (The marinara can make or break a baked ziti recipe.) You can also make your own marinara sauce from scratch if you're feeling extra ambitious, whether you're making this meal for lunch or dinner.

Combine the cheese and sauce with the pasta noodles

Once your sauce is all whisked and ready to go, you can bring that cooked pasta you set aside back into the mix. Add the pasta noodles to the cheesy sauce, and stir everything with a wooden spoon to fully combine. Then, coat the pasta with your sauce.

Look out to confirm there are no clumps of cheese, and that each noodle is fully covered. We can't stress enough that no noodles should be left behind! Do you want the perfect ratio of sauce, pasta, and cheese in every bite? Of course you do, so make sure the pasta is good and covered when you're doing this step.

Transfer the pasta to a baking dish

When the cooked pasta, cheese, and marinara sauce mixture are fully combined, transfer the beautiful, gooey, soon-to-be baked ziti to a (lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking oil) 9x13 baking dish. Carli uses an enamel baking dish, but sats, "It does not matter which type of dish you use as long as it is 9x13." So, if you only have a glass dish in your kitchen, it's totally usable for this baked ziti recipe.

Then the final step before putting the pasta in the oven is spreading the remaining cup of shredded mozzarella cheese across the top. It's already going to look delicious enough to eat, but next, you have to bake it. Just a little longer, and then you can dig in.

Bake the pasta to cheesy perfection

You're in the final phase. Put the pasta-filled dish in the 350 F preheated oven, and bake it for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starting to bubble on top. Oven cooking times may vary, so keep an eye on it. You can serve it immediately after removing from the oven — no wait time, just dive right on in.

Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on the baked ziti, or offer it on the side when serving. How long will this yummy baked pasta stay yummy? According to Carli, "It will keep in the fridge for up to four days in an airtight container." So, if you're lucky, you will have plenty of leftovers to enjoy over the next few days. And if you don't, well, we guess you have to whip up another batch — and that's not a bad thing!

Easy Baked Ziti Recipe Brings New Meaning To The Word Cheesy
5 from 15 ratings
Baked ziti may be your favorite meal to order at an Italian restaurant, but this is a recipe you can whip up at home which is just as tasty -- if not tastier.
Prep Time
10
minutes
Cook Time
30
minutes
Servings
8
servings
bowl of meatless baked ziti
Total time: 40 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 24 ounces jarred marinara sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • grated Parmesan, for serving
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add rigatoni pasta, and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, add the ricotta cheese, marinara sauce, and 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese. Stir to combine.
  4. Add the pasta noodles to the bowl with cheese and sauce, and mix well.
  5. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the pasta mixture into the baking dish.
  6. Top with remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese. Bake for 20 minutes.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 560
Total Fat 25.6 g
Saturated Fat 15.2 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 88.9 mg
Total Carbohydrates 52.1 g
Dietary Fiber 3.3 g
Total Sugars 7.0 g
Sodium 877.3 mg
Protein 29.2 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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