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baked ziti in a 9x13 baking dish with cheese and red pepper flakes on the side.
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5 from 3 votes

Classic Baked Ziti

This classic baked ziti is al dente ziti noodles, lots of cheese, and a hearty meat sauce combination. A family favorite recipe that's perfect for feeding a crowd!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Italian American
Servings: 8
Calories: 693kcal

Equipment

  • 9x13 baking dish

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ziti pasta
  • 1 lb ground beef or ground sausage
  • 28 ounces marinara sauce or store-bought
  • 2 cups canned diced tomatoes don't drain
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Ricotta Cheese Mixture

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley finely minced
  • 1 tsp fresh basil finely minced
  • 1 garlic clove grated
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. 
  • Add the ground beef to a large pot and brown completely. Season the beef with garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. 
  • Stir in the marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, and red pepper flakes. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Once the 15 minutes are up, check for seasoning and reserve 2 cups of sauce. 
  • While the meat sauce simmers, cook the ziti pasta in boiling salted water. 
  • In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, egg, parsley, basil, and garlic. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Set it aside. 
  • Add the cooked pasta to the meat sauce and mix well. Add 1/2 of the pasta to a 9x13 baking dish. Place dollops of the ricotta mixture over the ziti along with fresh mozzarella cheese. 
  • Pour the 2 cups of meat sauce over the ziti. Add the remaining layer of ziti pasta along with the remaining ricotta cheese mixture. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese over the top. 
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Broil for 1-2 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil or parsley, if desired, and enjoy! 

Notes

  • The meat sauce can be made ahead of time, it will also taste a lot better. You may also assemble the baked ziti hours in advance. Just make sure to cover it and refrigerate it until you're ready to place it in the oven.
  • Although I didn't include any wine in this recipe, feel free to add 1/2 cup of red wine to the meat sauce while it cooks.
  • Want to include some veggies? Add some fresh chopped spinach to the ricotta mixture. You can also add carrots and mushrooms to the meat sauce.
  • Spray the aluminum foil with nonstick spray so it doesn't stick to the cheese while it bakes.
  • If you don't want the ziti to fall apart and become too tender, make sure to undercook it. If the package recommends cooking the pasta for 10 minutes for "al dente", cook it for 8-9 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 693kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 41g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 139mg | Sodium: 1000mg | Potassium: 822mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1264IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 526mg | Iron: 4mg