Packed with cheese, homemade sauce, and spicy Italian sausage, this great baked ziti is an easy dinner recipe the whole family will love—also an excellent company dish or prep-ahead for a potluck or holiday meal.
I love baked ziti. Think of it as Italian comfort food that sticks to your bones. Or a super easy lasagna with more flexibility.
I started by browning a good quality Italian sausage with chopped onion. Then I added a modified version of my 30-minute marinara sauce. Mixed with cook pasta some mozzarella and topped with more mozzarella. Bake. Done.
Super easy with these step by step photo instructions.
An easy family favorite. A solid high 4.
🍲What is "Baked Ziti"?
Baked ziti is a classic Italian American comfort food baked casserole dish. It is made with macaroni and combined with tomato sauce and cheese. It may include meat, sausage, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and other things.
Do I Need Ziti Noodles?
No, almost any pasta will do — Cook to al dente per the particular pasta instructions. I tend to use Penne, a slightly smaller noodle with angle cut instead of straight cut edges.
The purest will insist it is not baked ziti without ziti pasta. But you and I can call it anything we want. Ziti pasta is harder to find for me, and I like smaller pasta. So use what you like.
Can I use jarred sauce?
Yep, but read the instructions, you don't save any work. Mine is so much better and cheaper. Most of the simmering of the sauce is while the casserole is baking in the oven.
I use two versions of Mozzarella here, shredded and chunks. I like and suggest some nice chunks of cheese through the pasta. There is just a wonderful surprise. The shredded is better for the top.
If you want to kick it up a bit, instead of shredded Mozzarella, shred your own. The commercial shredded cheese has a light coating of a material to prevent clumping.
When you look at the amounts of various ingredients, they are standard-sized packages in the market: the crushed tomatoes, the Italian sausage, the cheeses, and the pasta.
You can cut down the size, but you will have leftover ingredients. This is good refrigerated for 3-4 days and good frozen for 3-4 months.
📖Other Ziti Recipes
Preheat oven to 375°. Get your pasta started right away and cook to al dente per the package instructions.
Chop one medium onion.
In a large pan, add one pound Italian sausage and the chopped onion—Brown over medium-high heat. About 10 minutes and the last few minutes, add 2-3 cloves of minced or crushed garlic.
Add 28 oz. crushed tomatoes, 2 teaspoon basil, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional), ½ teaspoon oregano, and ¼ teaspoon sugar. Turn to low and simmer for a few minutes.
Cut 8 oz of mozzarella into ½ inch cubes.
Add the sauce to the pasta. Add the cubed mozzarella and 1 cup of shredded mozzarella. Mix well.
Add to a casserole pan and top with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella. A 9×13-inch rectangular casserole pan is good, or a 12 inch round works well too.
Bake at 375° until golden brown. About 30 minutes until golden brown
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Editor's Note: Originally Published January 21, 2012. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.