Easy Baked Ziti

Easy Baked Ziti is a meaty baked pasta smothered in a cream cheese tomato sauce. It’s great for feeding a crowd!

Easy Baked Ziti is a similar recipe to our Three Cheese Pasta Bake, but with red sauce and sausage. Either pasta recipe makes for an easy dinner, especially if you have a large family or are entertaining company.

A baked dish filled with easy baked ziti topped with melted mozzarella.

Baked Pasta For the Win!

Every Tuesday night is Pasta Night at our house. We have so many “go-to” pasta dishes that we love, but I’m always anxious to try new ones because you really can’t go wrong with pasta and cheese, right?!

Baked Ziti is an Italian-American dish that utilizes many classic Italian ingredients and flavors, but it did not specifically originate from Italy. 

The sauce is so flavorful and creamy (it has cream cheese) so you better believe it’s super yummy! It’s also topped with a delicious layer of mozzarella cheese, which is the best way to top off any recipe.

This Easy Baked Ziti recipe was perfect for feeding my big family. I only made one large casserole dish full of ziti to feed all 8 of us. That’s what I love about baked pasta recipes for dinner—they’re ideal for feeding the masses!

Pair it with a side salad or bread and you’re good to go!

How to Make Baked Ziti

PREP. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

PASTA. Cook pasta in a large pot according to the package instructions. I like to boil the pasta to al dente as it will continue to cook in the oven. Once cooked, drain the pasta.

MEAT. While the pasta is cooking, brown the ground beef and Italian sausage until no longer pink. Drain fat and set it aside.

SAUCE. In a large pot over medium heat, combine Marinara sauce, tomatoes, cream cheese, and sour cream to a large pot and cook until well blended and cream cheese is melted.

COMBINE & BAKE. Add pasta and sauce to the saucepan with ground beef and sausage and mix well. Add garlic salt and Italian seasoning. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Top with fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese and basil. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil.

Ingredient Tips

Marinara. Make your own Marinara or use your favorite store-bought brand. Or use homemade Spaghetti sauce or a store-bought jar of spaghetti sauce.

Meat. Instead of a combination, use all ground beef or all sausage, or even substitute it with ground turkey or chicken. 

Dry pasta. When you bake pasta casseroles, the noodles on top tend to get a bit dried out. Covering the entire casserole with a layer of cheese helps. You can also cover the pan with aluminum foil during half of the bake time. 

Ziti. this is called Baked Ziti because of the type of noodles used, but you can easily change it to shells, pinwheel, penne, bow tie, or other similar-sized noodles.

Whatever pasta you use, be sure to undercook it because it will finish cooking when it’s baked in the oven.

Preparing baked ziti for the oven by topping with fresh mozzarella.

Variations

Pasta dishes are a perfect dish to sneak in some hidden veggies. Whatever veggie, spices, or meats you like with your pasta will probably work as additions to this Baked Ziti.

Some other additions include:

  • Vegetables: shredded carrot, shredded zucchini, olives, mushrooms, diced bell peppers, chopped onion, or chopped fresh spinach
  • Add heat with jalapeños, red pepper flakes, or hot sauce
  • Extra meat: pepperoni or sprinkle with bacon crumbles
  • Season with garlic salt, onion powder, or black pepper
  • Cheese: add some parmesan cheese or stir in some ricotta cheese
Topped easy baked ziti with cheese before baking.

Storing info

Make Easy Baked ziti ahead of time, and store either before or after baking. It’s so nice to whip it out on a busy night when you don’t have time to prepare dinner!

STORE unbaked. Complete steps 1-6. Store it covered in the fridge for 1-2 days before adding the cheese and baking.

To freeze: use a freezer-safe baking dish and complete steps 1-6. Wrap it with plastic and again with foil. Label and freeze for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw before removing the wrappings, adding the cheese, and baking.

STORE baked. Allow Baked Ziti to cool completely. Cover and keep it in the fridge for 1-2 days before reheating.

To freeze: wrap it with plastic and then with foil and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw before reheating. 

To reheat. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Loosely cover the pan with foil and bake for 15 minutes or until warm.

Easy baked ziti topped with fresh basil.

For more delicious Pasta dishes, check out:

Easy Baked Ziti Recipe

5 from 8 votes
Easy Baked Ziti is a meaty baked pasta smothered in a cream cheese tomato sauce. It's great for feeding a crowd!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 10
Calories 310 kcal
Author Lil’ Luna

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-ounce) package ziti pasta
  • ½ pound ground beef 80% lean / 20% fat
  • ½ pound mild Italian sausage
  • 1 ½-2 cups marinara sauce (we love Rao’s)
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 4 ounces cream cheese softened
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt with parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella sliced
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • fresh basil for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, cook ground beef and Italian sausage in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring and breaking up into small pieces, until no longer pink (about 7-10 minutes). Drain fat and set saucepan aside.
  • In a large pot over medium heat, combine marinara sauce, tomatoes, cream cheese and sour cream and cook until well blended and cream cheese is melted, stirring often.
  • Add the pasta and sauce to the saucepan with ground beef and mix well. Add garlic salt and Italian seasoning.
  • Pour into a greased 9-x-13-inch baking dish. Top with fresh mozzarella and shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered.
  • Let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil.

Video

Notes

Make Ahead: Prepare as directed through Step 6, but do not add the cheeses. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before adding the cheese and baking. 
Variations: You can use all ground beef or all sausage instead of a combination of meat for the sauce, or even substitute the beef for ground turkey or chicken. And while this is called Baked Ziti, you can easily change the pasta to shells, wagon wheels, penne, bow-ties or any other similar-sized pasta. Whatever shape you use, be sure to undercook it because it will finish cooking when it is baked in the oven.

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About Kristyn

My name is Kristyn and I’m the mom of SIX stinkin’ cute kids and the wife to my smokin’ hot hubby, Lo. My mom’s maiden name is Luna, and I’m one of the many crafty “Lil’ Lunas” in the fam. On this site I like to share all things creative - from recipes to home decor to gifts and home decor ideas. Welcome!

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Comments:

      1. If I were to use ground beef in this recipe would I add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, and cream cheese to it (after browning ofcourse) then mix in the pasta?

  1. 5 stars
    Hi Kristyn

    I have a question for you!!! LOVE your recipes……I want to make these above pasta dishes…
    I would be making them ahead of time,now do you think they would freeze ok or even make them a day before and refrigerate??
    We have a four day family reunion with about 30ish hungry people. I am always looking for fun,easy and affortable menu options.
    Keep your awesome recipes coming.
    Steph

    1. How fun!! I’m glad you found some recipes to try! Yes, these should freeze just fine. Have fun with your family!

  2. 5 stars
    Ziti is one of our go-to Sunday meals! The whole family loves it & takes no time at all to make! My kind of meal!

  3. 5 stars
    My family all loves this recipe. And, it’s easy. So, a huge win. I leave the cheese off the top and just put it on the individual servings since I have a cheese hater. 😉