Baked Ziti Recipe

If you love lasagna, you’ll adore this easy, baked ziti recipe. It’s a quick and easy casserole you can put together at the last minute, and the whole family will love it. It’s a no-fail crowd-pleaser, regardless of who you are serving.

It’s a very versatile dish. Add veggies and different meats, and even change up the spices if you like. You can, of course, also use other cheese as well. I’ve made this with mozzarella several times, and it’s delicious. But I try not to get carried away with the cheese as often as I’d like, so I stick with the parmesan the majority of the time. Either way, it’s pretty darn tasty and doesn’t take too long to assemble either!

An overhead view of a white casserole dish, partially eaten, with baked ziti in it.

What Is Ziti?

Ziti is a pasta shape. It’s similar to penne but has straight edges instead of the edges being cut at an angle. However, if you don’t happen to have any handy (like me!), you can use penne pasta or rigatoni pasta, too. For this recipe, I actually used a gluten-free rigatoni because I couldn’t find a ziti pasta I could have. That’s why you see ridges in the pasta. Ziti pasta does not have those ridges. It’s just smooth tubes of pasta.

What Is Baked Ziti?

In case you’re wondering, baked ziti is a casserole dish (like this one! Ta-da!!!) using ziti pasta. It is a version of pasta al forno and is very much like lasagna without all the layers.

A fork holds up a bit of baked ziti.

Budget Ziti

Ziti is far more budget-friendly than lasagna and uses far fewer ingredients. It’s the same idea as lasagna in many ways but is a much easier, time-sparing dish to make. Think of it as the “poor man’s lasagna”. You can bake it in just about any type of oven-safe dish. Try different cheeses, veggies, and meats, as mentioned above. Basically, you can purchase what’s on sale and use it to put this together.

Traditional baked ziti is very heavy on cheese. If you google it, you’ll find plenty of photos showing ooey-gooey, cheesy potions of pasta. But I don’t like to go hog-wild on the fat content of my recipes, so I cut back by using parmesan. While there will obviously be a difference between using parmesan instead of something like mozzarella or jack cheese, I find it to be just as tasty and far more friendly for my hips.

Easy Baked Ziti Recipe

This recipe cooks up fast and easy! All you have to do is mix the tomato sauce and spices in one bowl while you cook the pasta in a pot and saute the meat in a skillet. Put them all together, top with cheese, and bake! You can even make a salad to go with it while it bakes in the oven. This dish comes together in minutes.

A closeup of a serving of baked ziti in a casserole dish.

Vegan Baked Ziti Recipe

If you prefer a meatless version of this recipe, simply omit the meat. If you want something plant-based for texture, use TVP. If this must be totally plant-based, use vegan parmesan cheese or some vegan mozzarella.

Baked Ziti With Italian Sausage

If you can find an Italian sausage you feel good about eating, it makes a wonderful addition to this recipe. You can add it instead of ground meat or in addition to it.

Baked Ziti With Meatballs

It’s easy to make meatballs and simply mix them in. You’ll want to cook them completely before adding them to the casserole dish.

A serving spoon lifts a serving of baked ziti out of a white casserole dish.

About Baked Ziti Ingredients

Whole-grain ziti – Cooked separately to package directions.

Ground turkey – You can also use beef or ground chicken if you have a preference.

Salt

Extra virgin olive oil – Or another good-quality oil you feel comfortable using.

Dried basil

Dried oregano

Garlic granules – Or garlic powder.

Onion granules – Or onion powder.

Honey – Any type will work.

Balsamic vinegar

Water – Use filtered water that won’t taste like chlorine.

Canned tomato sauce – Low sodium with no added sugar.

Grated parmesan cheese – You can also use mozzarella or even ricotta.

Shredded Mozzarella cheese – While the recipe gives you a measurement, you can use as much as you want to get it as cheesy as you like.

How To Make Baked Ziti

Cooked pasta in a glass mixing bowl.

Set pasta to cook according to package directions and preheat oven to 350℉.

Ziti sauce ingredients in a mixing bowl.

In a large mixing bowl, combine half of the basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and all of the honey, vinegar, water, and tomato sauce.

Cooked ground turkey added to cooked pasta in a mixing bowl.

In a large skillet, cook the turkey meat in the olive oil with the other half of the spices. Once fully cooked, transfer it to the bowl of pasta.

Ground turkey and cooked pasta mixed with sauce in a mixing bowl.

Add the sauce to the cooked pasta along with the parmesan cheese and the cooked meat. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

A white casserole dish filled with zit blend and topped with shredded mozzarella.

Transfer to a baking dish and top it with the mozzarella.

A just-baked ziti garnished with fresh, chopped basil.

Bake at 350 F. for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

An overhead view of a serving spoon scooping up a serving of baked ziti.

Garnish with extra parmesan and fresh, chopped basil.

Storing Baked Ziti

Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to three days in the fridge.

Freezing Baked Ziti

This is easy to freeze in portioned, single-serving containers. Pack well and freeze for up to four months.

Reheating Baked Ziti

This is super easy to reheat in a microwave. If you prefer, you can also reheat this in an oven at 350F. until warmed through.

More Healthy Pasta Recipes

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Recipe updated 1/31/24.

A closeup of a serving of baked ziti in a casserole dish.

Baked Italian Ziti

This delicious dish is sure to become a family favorite! Serve with a green salad or a side of veggies.
4 from 9 votes
Print Pin Rate Add to Collection
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 540kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. whole-grain ziti (cooked to package directions)
  • 2 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. dried basil (divided between sauce and meat)
  • 2 tbsp. dried oregano (divided between sauce and meat)
  • 2 tbsp. garlic powder (divided between sauce and meat)
  • 2 tbsp. onion powder (divided between sauce and meat)
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 30 oz. can tomato sauce (low sodium, no sugar)
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz. grated mozzarella cheese You can use up to a full pound if you like it extra cheesy.

Instructions

  • Set pasta to cook according to package directions and preheat oven to 350℉.
    Add pasta to tomato sauce mixture.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine half of the basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and all of the honey, vinegar, water, and tomato sauce.
    Combining the tomato sauce and spices in a mixing bowl.
  • In a large skillet, cook the turkey meat in the olive oil with the other half of the spices. Once fully cooked, transfer it to the bowl of pasta.
    Add the cooked meat to the pasta and tomato sauce.
  • Add the sauce to the cooked pasta along with the parmesan cheese and the cooked meat. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.
    Mix everything in the bowl until well combined.
  • Transfer to a baking dish and top it with the mozzarella.
    A white casserole dish filled with zit blend and topped with shredded mozzarella.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
    A just-baked ziti garnished with fresh, chopped basil.
  • Garnish with extra parmesan and fresh, chopped basil.
    An overhead view of a serving spoon scooping up a serving of baked ziti.

Notes

Please note that the nutrition data below is a ballpark figure. Exact data is not possible.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 540kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 46g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.02g | Cholesterol: 96mg | Sodium: 1258mg | Potassium: 920mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 821IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 347mg | Iron: 5mg

This recipe from the Gracious Pantry archives, originally posted 10/12/12.

Author: Tiffany McCauley

Title: Journalist

Expertise: Food, cooking, travel

Bio:

Tiffany McCauley is a nationally syndicated journalist and an award-winning cookbook author. She is also a food blogger. She has been featured on MSN, Huffington Post, Country Living Magazine, HealthLine, Redbook, and many more. She has helped thousands of people learn to cook simple, clean, and healthy foods in their own home kitchens. She lives in Maine and loves Elvis, sunflowers, and a good seafood chowder, as well as travel writing.

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46 Comments

  1. graciouspantry says:

    My pleasure :0)

  2. graciouspantry says:

    Ya, when you eat 5-6 times per day, the serving sizes are smaller. Hope you enjoy it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Julijana Gircyte says:

      if I usually eat 3-4 times, should I increase serving size? I prefer to eat until satisfaction, don’t like small meals idea. I would rather eat more (but not overeat) and wait for like 3-4 hours. And I bet my boyfriend could eat half of the whole meal in one go as he eats loads.

      1. graciouspantry says:

        Sure, you can do that.

  3. graciouspantry says:

    My pleasure :0)

  4. Very good however mine turned out a little on the dry side ๐Ÿ™

    1. graciouspantry says:

      You can always add more sauce.

  5. Pingback: 90/10 Nutrition Challenge weekly meal plan
  6. Jennifer Kavanagh says:

    What kinds of veggies would you add?

    1. graciouspantry says:

      Anything, really. Spinach, broccoli, carrots, peas… the possibilities are pretty endless.

      1. graciouspantry says:

        I beg to differ. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary (scientific evidence) and my body tends to know the difference as well.

  7. Maria E. Delgado says:

    Can I have this now?!

  8. Pingback: Clean Eating Recipes | Clean Eating Vegetarian Lasagna
  9. I cooked this tonight and it was a big hit. My 6 yr old asked for more when she was done and said it was the best thing she had ever eaten ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Clare – Awesome!!! ๐Ÿ˜€

  10. I LOVE your website! I’ve tried a few of your recipes, this one included and all have been great! My son gobbled this dish right up! Thank you!!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Lori – My pleasure! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. just wondering if I could put the pasta in uncooked and then bake it covered?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jen – I don’t recommend it. Not enough liquid to cook the pasta and the meat would turn into rubber because you’d have to cook it longer.

  12. Bridgette says:

    Hi! Love your site, do you have a list of pastas that are safe to buy or what not to buy?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Bridgette – Not specifically. But if you purchase 100% whole wheat pasta, you should be fine. Unless you are trying to avoid wheat, then opt for something like 100% brown rice pasta, or even quinoa pasta.

  13. I was wondering what kind if tomato sauce you used? I am new to clean eating so any tips you have are very much needed!

    Thank you!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Cece – I get mine at Trader Joe’s. Do you have one near you?

  14. Question: If I am cooking ahead, should I complete every step except number 5 in the directions? That way it would be fresher for the day I was eating it… Also, how would you suggest freezing it (air-tight/how long will it freeze)? Thanks for this recipe, this was one of the first clean recipes I tried and I got an extremely positive response from the husband ๐Ÿ™‚ After that recipe, he was all for me cooking clean!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Bekah – Haha! That’s great! ๐Ÿ˜€ Yes, I would do it just as you described. It definitely needs to be air tight and it will freeze up to about 3 or 4 months.

  15. Made this one the other night…I had some doubts, honestly, my baked pastas always come out dry and not enough sauce. But this baked ziti was so good and the spices covered every inch of the ziti so even if it wasnt saucy, it was definitely tasty. My kids and grandmother loved it as well and had plenty leftovers for lunch the next day.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Amanda – Fantastic! So glad you enjoyed it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Gloria Coady says:

    Made this tonight, we both loved it. I used 2 cloves of garlic instead of powder and half a sweet onion instead of powder. Deeeelicious ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Gloria – Awesome!! So glad you enjoyed it! ๐Ÿ˜€

  17. Thank you so much for your AMAZING recipes! I am fairly new to clean eating, been doing it for a month and feel so amazing. Some recipes can be bland in the clean eating world, but yours aren’t. I haven’t found a recipe I don’t like yet! This is my families favorite so far, SO easy and SO delicious!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Megan – I’m so happy you’re enjoying it! Thanks for the feedback! ๐Ÿ˜€

  18. Did you use a 13×9 for this? Looks delicious ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jenn D. – I don’t recall, but a 13×9 should work fine. Enjoy!

  19. Hi, could you tell me the nutrition facts without the turkey included? Or tell me how to deduct the turkey myself?

    Thanks!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Leanne – Not off hand, but if you google a recipe calculator, you can enter the recipe without the turkey. I use MyFitnessPal.com.

  20. Deanna Paine says:

    This was a HUGE hit! Even my husband loved it and he’s usually not big on clean-eating. ๐Ÿ™‚ I added a bit of salt and used half Mozzarella and half Parmesan. I even made it with GF Penne pasta and it was just soooo awesome! Thank you!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Deanna – My pleasure! So happy everyone enjoyed it! ๐Ÿ˜€

  21. If I don’t have that vinegar could I leave it out or substitute it with red wine vinegar? Thanks!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Chelsea – I would just leave it out. I think the red wine vinegar would be a bit more “tangy” than most people would like.

  22. Sounds great! What kind of baking dish did you use?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      It was just a small casserole dish. The size doesn’t really matter too much. As long as the pasta fits, you’re good to go!

  23. Is there no sugar in the pasta ?
    Stupid question just started clean eating

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Sara – No. Just be sure to use 100% whole grain pasta.

  24. Is the 1 lb of pasta measured before or after cooking?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Carol – That’s the dry package as you buy it from the store.