Baked Ziti

5 from 2 votes

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The classic baked pasta dish with lots of cheese, perfect for a cold weather dinner with family and friends.

Baked Ziti garnished with thinly sliced basil.

Baked ziti is one of the all-time classic baked pasta dishes, and this is one of the best baked ziti recipes ever. Easier to pull together than a lasagna, but no less satisfying, this is the dinner that will pull everyone to the table. It’s a no-one-is-showing-up-late-for-this-meal pasta casserole.

This dish is also an unapologetic cheese festival. Not one, not two, not three, but FOUR cheeses! Mozzarella, fontina, Parmesan and ricotta cheeses. Yes, please, cheese. If you want to substitute in some smoked mozzarella for the regular as a variation, or choose another simple melting cheese like Monterey Jack for the fontina, go right ahead.

Spoon scooping Baked Ziti from a pan.

You can make this casserole ahead of time and keep it covered in the fridge for up to a day. Then bake it when you are ready, adding another 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time if you are taking it straight from the fridge and putting it into the oven still cold.

This recipe can be easily halved if you are making it for a smaller group.

Baked Ziti in a pan and on a plate.

Ziti Pasta Substitute

You can use any short tubular pasta, like penne or rigatoni, or you can also use a different short stubby shape, like orecchiette or farfalle. Ziti is the classic shape in many a baked pasta dish, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. If you can find ziti (or another pasta) with the word “rigate” on the packaging, you’ll know it has ridges on the outside, which help the pasta get nicely coated with the sauce.

Spoon in a partially-served pan of Baked Ziti.

How to Make Baked Ziti

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions. Drain the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place some paper towels on a clean plate. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the paper towels.

In the pot that you cooked the pasta in, combine the marinara sauce, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Add the pasta and toss to combine. Add 1 cup of the mozzarella, the fontina, Parmesan, and pancetta, and toss until everything is evenly combined. Transfer half of the pasta to a shallow 3 or 4-quart baking dish and spread it out evenly.

Baked Ziti: The classic baked pasta dish with lots of cheese, perfect for a cold weather dinner with family and friends.

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Red baking dish of noodles in a red sauce.

Use a tablespoon to dollop the ricotta in little mounds across the surface.

Spoon adding dollops of ricotta to a pan of noodles and sauce.

Spoon the rest of the pasta on top in an even layer.

Ladle scooping Baked Ziti from a red pan.

Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup mozzarella over the top.

Woman sprinkling shredded mozzarella on a dish of ziti.

Bake the casserole for about 30 minutes until everything is hot and the cheese is melted and the top is golden brown.

Sprinkle with the slivered fresh basil and serve hot. 

Baked Ziti topped with melted cheese and basil.

What to Serve With Baked Ziti

Plates set with Baked Ziti and salad.

Other Baked Pasta Dishes 

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5 from 2 votes

Baked Ziti

The classic baked pasta dish with lots of cheese, perfect for a cold weather dinner with family and friends.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 8 People

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound dried ziti or penne rigate
  • 6 ounces sliced and roughly chopped, or cubed, pancetta or bacon
  • 3 cups (24 ounces) marinara or other tomato sauce (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella (divided)
  • 1 cup grated fontina cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 ½ cups ricotta cheese
  • Thinly sliced fresh basil (to garnish)

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package directions. Drain the pasta.
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Place some paper towels on a clean plate. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the paper towels.
  • In the pot that you cooked the pasta in, combine the marinara sauce, basil, oregano and salt and pepper. Add the pasta and toss to combine. Add 1 cup of the mozzarella, the fontina, Parmesan and pancetta, and toss until everything is evenly combined.
  • Transfer half of the pasta to a shallow 3 or 4-quart baking dish and spread it out evenly. Use a tablespoon to dollop the ricotta in little mounds across the surface. Spoon the rest of the pasta on top in an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup mozzarella over the top.
  • Bake the casserole for about 30 minutes until everything is hot and the cheese is melted and the top is golden brown. Sprinkle with the slivered fresh basil and serve hot.

Notes

You can make this casserole ahead of time and keep it covered in the fridge for up to a day.  Then bake it when you are ready, adding another 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time if you are taking it straight from the fridge and putting it into the oven still cold.  

Nutrition

Calories: 578kcal, Carbohydrates: 51g, Protein: 29g, Fat: 29g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 84mg, Sodium: 1068mg, Potassium: 569mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 1029IU, Vitamin C: 6mg, Calcium: 432mg, Iron: 2mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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