An Italian classic, this Baked Ziti Recipe is a crowd-pleaser. Pasta, sausage, spaghetti sauce, and three types of cheese all come together in this comforting Italian casserole. The recipe is easy to modify to personal tastes and you can make it with leftover Amazing Spaghetti Sauce, which makes it come together crazy fast on a busy weeknight.
Even if you don’t have leftover homemade sauce to make this recipe taste extra delicious, the recipe as it’s written uses a bottle of store-bought spaghetti sauce that you doctor-up so it’s still super easy and fast!
Baked Ziti is typically made with Rigatoni pasta, but Penne or Rotini work great too! The pasta needs to be cooked before adding to the casserole. It is best to cook the pasta to al dente or even under cook by about a minute. The pasta will cook a little more when you bake it.
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Step By step pictures for how to make this baked ziti recipe
Frequently asked questions about making this Baked Ziti Recipe:
Can I make this recipe ahead of time?
Yes, you can prep the casserole and then refrigerate it until you are ready to bake. The recipe states a 25 minute bake time but that is if you put it together with the freshly made sauce and cooked noodles that are still hot. If you are baking it after it has been refrigerated, you will want to bake it for 45 minutes to an hour. It will need to be covered with foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray so it doesn’t stick to the cheese.
Can this casserole be frozen?
Yes, this is a great make-ahead casserole that can be frozen. You will need to let it thaw before you bake it and then bake for 45-60 minutes or until it is bubbling and heated through.
If I use hot Italian sausage will it be really spicy?
I love to use Hot Italian Sausage in this recipe. When I do, I skip adding red pepper flakes. I like a little kick, so to me, it isn’t really spicy but if you aren’t used to a little heat you might want to stick to mild Italian Sausage.
If I use fresh basil instead of dried how much should I use?
If you use fresh basil you will need to use 1 1/2 tablespoons. Mince it nice and small.
If I don’t have Rigatoni what other pasta would be the best substitute?
If you don’t have Rigatoni, go with Penne or Rotini.
If I don’t have fresh grated Parmesan can I use the Kraft (green bottle) kind?
Yes, the fresh will melt better and have a slightly more authentic taste, but the Kraft type also works really well. Parmesan cheese adds a delicious depth to the casserole.
- 1 lb rigatoni, cooked to aldente
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb Italian sausage
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 (14.5) ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 bottle of your favorite spaghetti sauce
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅛-1/4 tsp ground pepper
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes, optional
- 1 (15 oz) tub of Ricotta Cheese
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2-3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
- Parsley flakes for garnish, optional
- Multi-task prep by getting the water boiling for the noodles while you prepare the sauce. (Don't forget to salt the pasta water.)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large non-stick skillet add the olive oil, sausage, onions, and garlic. Cook until sausage is browned and onions are tender.
- Add the diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, brown sugar, dried basil, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir together and let simmer for 5 minutes.
- In a glass 9x13 baking dish take a little less then half of the sauce and put it in the bottom of the pan. Use half of the ricotta cheese and dollop it evenly over the sauce. Sprinkle half a cup of parmesan cheese and 1 cup of mozzarella over the ricotta cheese.
- Next, take about 1 cup of the sauce and add it to the cooked and drained rigatoni noodles. Stir together until noodles have a thick coating and then pour them on top of the sauce cheese layer.
- Repeat the sauce and cheese layers on top of the noodles with the remaining sauce, ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella cheese.
- Sprinkle with parsley flakes and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
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