The whole family will love this cheesy cauliflower baked ziti! Every bite is filled with pasta noodles coated in melted cheddar cheese, fresh herbs, and roasted cauliflower for a healthy twist.
One of my childhood favorites – baked ziti but with some roasted cauliflower to make things a little healthier! Growing up my mom made baked pasta all the time, but never used ricotta cheese or really any Italian cheese – just cheddar. And it’s my favorite way to do it!
Simple ingredients are used, but the flavor is anything but that! While the ingredients are mostly pantry-friendly, I made some swaps to make the flavor even richer. Such as using a quality marinara (homemade or store-bought!) and using fresh herbs instead of dried for vibrant flavor.
It’s perfect for a Sunday dinner with family or as a cozy weeknight dinner! It’s cheesy, comforting, and such a crowd-pleaser.
Ingredients – What You Need
Below you’ll find the full list of ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe happen!
Ziti noodles: these are typically noodles used for baked “ziti” but you can also swap for penne too! Other shapes of pasta I like to use for baked ziti are rotini, shellbow, or fusilli.
Cauliflower: for some healthy veggies! The cauliflower will be roasted then cooked with the pasta.
Basil & oregano: fresh basil and oregano (not dried) are a must in this recipe! They add a bright herbaceous flavor to the whole dish that isn’t possible with dried herbs.
Cheese: For perfect melty cheese, I recommend cheddar. You can use a blend of cheddar or just one type!
How to Make It
(1) Roast the cauliflower – first, lay the cauliflower florets on a sheet pan and drizzle with oil and salt. Roast for 30 minutes at 350F, flipping halfway through for an even roast.
(2) Cook the pasta – in a large pot of well-salted water, bring to a boil and cook pasta according to the package. Drain and then add the pasta back to the pot.
(3) Mix baked ziti ingredients – add half the cheddar cheese, half the marinara, chopped fresh herbs, and chopped roasted cauliflower. Mix together.
(4) Add ziti to the baking pan – Add all of the baked ziti to a baking pan.
(5) Top with sauce and cheese – then top with remaining sauce and cheese, then cover and bake for 45 minutes. Then serve!
Tips for Success
The best pan for baked ziti – My ideal pan for baking pasta is a heavy cast iron pan/pot (preferably enameled) or a metal baking pan. Why? Because both radiate a lot more heat than glass, which then results in the deepening of flavors and even textures. You can of course use glass if you don’t have these types of baking dishes, but I truly love the results when using a heavy baking dish.
Fresh herbs are a must! If you can, don’t skip out on using fresh herbs! They will add such a vibrant flavor to the pasta that can’t be achieved when using dried herbs.
Types of cheese you can also use – I really recommend using cheddar cheese for this recipe because it’s just so good. But if you don’t have it, you can also use mozzarella and parmesan, gruyere, or an Italian cheese blend!
Always bake ziti covered – It’s always important to bake ziti or any pasta with a proper lid or foil covering because it traps moisture and prevents the pasta noodles from potentially drying out.
Make it gluten-free friendly! If you want to make this baked ziti gluten-free I recommend using brown rice gluten-free pasta noodles or my favorite chickpea pasta noodles (made with chickpea flour instead of wheat flour!).
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I fix dry baked ziti? The best way to fix baked ziti if it’s become dry is to mix in some additional marinara sauce, San Marzano tomatoes, or add a splash of water over top and cover with foil to moisten the ingredients again.
How long do leftovers last? Baked pasta always keeps pretty well! This should last for about 5 days chilled in the refrigerator.
More Baked Pasta Recipes to Try
Love baked pasta as much as we do? Then you might also be a fan of these recipes too!
Cauliflower Baked Ziti
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Roast the cauliflower: arrange the cauliflower florets on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and a pinch of salt. Toss until the florets are evenly coated in oil and bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
- Cook the pasta: While the cauliflower is roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a bowl (about 2 teaspoons of salt). Then cook the pasta as the box instructs, drain and place the pasta noodles back into the pot. Set aside.
- Mix the ingredients together: When the cauliflower is finished, add to the pot of pasta with 1 cup marinara, 1 cup of cheese, and fresh herbs. Mix then add to a baking pan/dish.
- Top and bake: then top the pasta with the rest of the marinara and cheese. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and enjoy with additional fresh herbs!