Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti is an easy baked pasta recipe filled with a cream cheese and tomato sauce and topped with cheese! It’s great for feeding a crowd.

This 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.

Baked ziti in a casserole dish

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?!

Today’s recipe is for Baked Ziti. 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 was perfect for feeding my big family. I only had to make one pan full of ziti to feed all 6 kids, plus my husband and I. That’s what I love about baked pasta recipes—they’re ideal for feeding the masses!

Cooked ziti noodles to use in baked ziti recipe

Ingredient Tips

Marinara: You can make your own marinara or use your favorite store bought brand. You can even use spaghetti sauce.

Meat: Instead of a combination you can use all hamburger or all sausage, or even substitute it with ground turkey or chicken. 

Ziti: this is called Cheesy Ziti bake 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.

Layering easy baked ziti in a baking dish

How to Make Baked Ziti

PREP. Preheat oven to 375.

PASTA. Cook pasta as directed on package in a large pot. Remove pasta.

MEAT. While pasta is cooking, cook up hamburger and Italian sausage until no longer pink. Drain fat and set aside.

SAUCE. Add Marinara sauce, tomatoes, cream cheese and sour cream to large pot and cook until well blended and cream cheese is melted.

COMBINE & BAKE. Add pasta and meat to pot and mix well. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Top with fresh Mozzarella cheese and basil. Bake for 20 minutes.

How to make baked ziti with mozzarella cheese on top

Additions

Pasta dishes are a perfect dish to sneak in some hidden veggies. Some shredded carrot or zucchini would work. You can also throw in some corn. Some other additions include:

  • Olives
  • Mushrooms
  • Diced peppers
  • Jalapeños
  • Pepperoni
  • Bacon crumbles

Whatever veggie, spices, meats you like with your pasta will probably work as additions in this baked ziti.

A spoonful of easy baked ziti

Make Ahead Meal

You can make ahead and store your baked ziti recipe 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!

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 freeze 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.  

BAKED: If you wish to prebake the dish and store it you definitely can (this also works for leftovers). Make the dish according to the recipe and allow it to completely cool. Cover and keep it in the fridge for 1-2 days before reheating. You can also wrap it with plastic and 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.

Baked ziti with sausage, mozzarella, and fresh basil

For more delicious Pasta dishes, check out:

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Baked Ziti Recipe

4.67 from 3 votes
Baked Ziti is an easy baked pasta recipe filled with a cream cheese and tomato sauce and topped with cheese! 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 455 kcal
Author Lil’ Luna

Ingredients

  • 16 oz ziti pasta uncooked
  • ½ lb hamburger
  • ½ lb Italian sausage, mild
  • 12 oz Marinara sauce we love Rao's
  • 14.5 oz tomatoes diced
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp garlic salt (with parsley)
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 8-16 oz fresh Mozzarella sliced (½ – 1 whole package)
  • fresh basil for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Cook pasta as directed on package in a large pot. Remove pasta and drain.
  • While pasta is cooking, cook up hamburger and Italian sausage until no longer pink. Drain fat and set aside.
  • Add Marinara sauce, tomatoes, cream cheese, sour cream to large pot and cook until well blended and cream cheese is melted.
  • Add pasta and meat to pot and mix well. Add garlic salt and Italian seasoning and add more or less if needed.
  • Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Top with fresh Mozzarella cheese and basil.
  • Bake for 20 minutes.

Video

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About the Author

Kristyn Merkley

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. 4 stars
    Could you do a recipe section of your tried and true recipes? Most recipes are sponsored by, for example “Ragu”. Not hating because everyone has to make a living, but just want to know which recipes are actually YOUR recipes that you like and use all the time. Not recipes you are forced to throw together in the name of sponsorship.

    1. I have tried all my recipes, just maybe not all the ones from guest posts or contributors. I wouldn’t want to share my own recipes, if I haven’t even tried them. Only want to share the best 🙂