Easy Baked Ziti
An easy and flavorful baked ziti made from scratch! This crowd-pleasing pasta is made with an Italian cheese blend, rich tomato sauce, and requires no ricotta cheese. The whole family will love this dish for any occasion!
I grew up with my mom making baked ziti all the time. It’s simple, easy to throw together, AND the whole family loves it. This is a great dinner when you are running short on time and ingredients! All you need is pasta noodles, tomato sauce (or even canned crushed tomatoes), cheese, and dried herbs.
This easy baked ziti is so yummy, freezer friendly, and takes only 20 minutes to bake! It’s a win-win.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Pasta noodles: I used penne – you can also use rotini, bowtie, or shell pasta.
- Italian cheese blend: whenever you are trying to attain cheesy pasta I always recommend using pre-made Italian cheese blend that is asiago, provolone, and parmesan.
- Pasta water: always reserve your pasta water for it’s natural flavor and consistency to make this dish perfectly cheesy.
- Tomato sauce: use a high-quality marinara sauce or make my family’s San Marzano Tomato Sauce.
- Herbs: I recommend fresh basil – you can use dried oregano and thyme if you don’t want to use fresh.
- Mozzarella: for melted cheese I always recommend fresh mozzarella either shredded or sliced.
How to Make Easy Baked Ziti – Step by Step
- (1 -3) Boil pasta according to box directions with generous pinch of salt. When draining reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Add back to pot with pasta with 3/4 cup Italian cheese blend. Then stir in fresh herbs and 1 cup of tomato sauce.
- (5) Transfer penne to a 13×9 baking dish or pan. Cover with remaining tomato sauce.
- (6) Then add 1 cup of mozzarella and 1/4 cup Italian cheese blend. Bake covered loosely in foil for 20 minutes then brown the cheese by broiling on HIGH for 1 to 2 minutes uncovered.
Should I Cover Baked Ziti in the Oven?
Yes, you want to make sure your pasta has the right amount of moisture while baking to avoid drying. It’s important to keep the foil loosely sealed on top so it doesn’t stick to the cheese. After baking, remove the foil and put your oven on HIGH broil for 1 to 2 minutes to get that perfect browned cheesy top.
Add more delicious ingredients!
The great thing about baked ziti is it’s so versatile. Some of my favorite things to add to this recipe is roasted vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, broccoli), ricotta cheese for more creaminess and cheese, and cooked sausage or ground beef.
Reheating Pasta Without Drying It Out
A secret that helps with reheating almost any food to keep from dying up is adding a splash of water. Preheat oven to 350F and add about 3 Tablespoons of water to help moisten pasta and ingredients – you can also add 1/4 cup of sauce as well. Bake covered with foil for 15 minutes.
Extra Helpful Tips
No homemade sauce? no problem
The Best Pasta Sauce to Buy
My family has been using Rao's for years. When we don't have time to make our own tomato sauce for pasta recipes we love using Rao's! It is not only DELICIOUS but is an authentic, high-quality sauce that tastes like it's homemade.
- Cheesy pasta noodles: Leave 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the pasta water in with the noodles after boiling, stir Italian cheeses in with the noodles and water. This will create the ultimate creamy/cheesy sauce with the pasta noodles. The pasta water combined with the cheese helps the pasta remain moist and prevents it from drying out while baking.
- For sauce: You can use your favorite homemade sauce, store-bought sauce, or even canned crushed tomatoes. I used my family’s famous San Marzano Tomato Sauce. Easy to make and is the perfect addition to any Italian recipe!
- Make it healthier: One of my favorite ways to make pasta recipes healthier is using a lentil or chickpea pasta. It’s made completely from lentils or chickpeas and has a ton of plant-based protein and is gluten free. I love using this pasta because it tastes just like regular pasta noodles but with much more nutritional value!
- Make ziti ahead of time: You can prepare the ziti ahead of time, skip baking, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Then bake according to instructions.
What to Serve it With
I love serving this pasta with a bright salad like our Tuscan artichoke salad, or this Italian Salad. It’s also delicious with some crusty bread on the side!
More Delicious Italian Recipes to Try
- San Marzano Tomato Sauce
- Authentic Italian Chicken Parmesan
- Cheesy Rotini Pasta with Roasted Vegetables
- Sweet & Spicy Italian Sausage Lasagna
- Baked Eggplant Rollatini
- Easy Zucchini Lasagna
If you tried this Easy Baked Ziti recipe or any other recipe, don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know what you think. I love hearing from you! You can also follow me on PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM, and FACEBOOK for more crave-worthy content.
Easy Baked Ziti
An easy and flavorful baked ziti made from scratch! So cheesy, saucy, and a one dish meal that the whole family will love. Takes only 30 minutes to make and is all things delicious and cheesy!
- 1 lb ziti or penne pasta
- 3 cups tomato sauce (see notes)
- 1/2 cup pasta water
- 1 cup Italian cheese blend (parmesan, asiago, provolone)
- 1 cup Mozzarella
- 2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped ( opt for 2 teaspoons dried basil)
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme ( opt for 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
- 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano ( opt for 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
Preheat oven to 350F. Cook pasta according to box directions with a generous pinch of salt. Drain pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
Add pasta and pasta water back into pot and stir in 3/4 cup Italian cheese blend, 1 cup of tomato sauce, and all of herbs (basil, thyme, and oregano). Pasta should have a creamy and cheesy consistency.
Transfer pasta to a 13×9 baking dish. Layer with rest of tomato sauce, mozzarella, and 1/4 cup Italian cheese blend over top.
Bake covered with foil for 20 minutes until cheese is bubbling and browned. Garnish with fresh herbs and enjoy!
Did you make this recipe? Share your photos and tag @asimplepalate #asimplepalate.
Looks delicious and very easy to make. Can’t wait to prepare this for a dinner.
This looks amazing! If I wanted to add in the roasted veggies, would I mix them in when you combine the pasta, water, cheese and sauce?
I bought a good fresh mozzarella and cooked exactly according to your directions but the cheese was rubbery. Yuck! Do you know what causes that?
Hi carrie! I’m so sorry to hear that about the mozzarella. Yikes! Not all mozzarellas are created equal. But, I’ve never experienced a “rubbery” texture with it before. Not sure what to say other than maybe trying out a different brand?
I love baked ziti its so yummy I cant wait to make this recipe again . Thanks !
So happy to hear! 🙂
Loved it, have tried other recipes, I liked this one the most👍
Thanks Martha! So happy to hear that! 🙂
This is my favorite baked ziti recipe; I have a kid who dislikes ricotta, so I was thrilled to find a baked ziti recipe without it. It was easy to make and tasted fabulous!
Thank you so much Milinda! I know most recipes call for ricotta so I’m happy this one worked out for you. 🙂 So happy you all enjoyed it so much.
I don’t like ricotta in clumps, like in lasagna. However, I enjoy it in baked ziti when it is mixed in with the sauce. Maybe give that a shot in the future if you want to try something new and different?
This ziti looks absolutely delicious! You photographed it in such an appealing way too 🙂
Thanks so much Sarah! Appreciate it ?