Easy Baked Ziti is extra creamy, extra cheesy, and extra delicious. Filled with creamy meat sauce covering perfectly cooked ziti pasta and layered with parmesan and mozzarella cheese. A simple yet super tasty pasta dish everyone will love.
So what exactly is Baked Ziti?
I'd have to say this really is an American classic with all the Italian flavors! We Americans sure love a good casserole! Especially us southerners!
It all starts with a "Ziti" pasta, that is bathed in a beautiful robust meat sauce. To make a creamy baked ziti I add a little heavy cream that adds something extra special to this pasta casserole.
The nice thing about this dish is how versatile it is. Don't want the creamy leave out the cream and it's just plain saucy and scrumptious.
You can swap about anything to your taste, but for this ziti recipe, I keep it easy and packed with lots of flavors!
This recipe is perfect for family meals (you even have leftovers), dinner parties, a potluck, or even to take to a family that just needs a good meal they don't have to cook.
Why you'll love this baked ziti recipe!
- Easy Dish: This one is such an easy dish to come together quickly for a delicious meal.
- Perfect Make-Ahead or Freezer Meal: Easily made ahead or freeze to enjoy on a busy weeknight.
- Very versatile: While we love this creamy baked ziti recipe as is, this dish can be adapted to any taste. Check below for all the variation and substitution ideas.
Here's what you will need for the Best Baked Ziti:
How to make Creamy Baked Ziti
✱ Be sure to see the recipe card below for exact ingredients and instructions!
Step 1 | Cook Ziti Pasta and Ground Beef
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
In a large pot of salted water, boil ziti pasta according to package instructions to al dente and drain. Then place it back into the pot.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet or pot, cook ground beef over medium-high heat crumbling with a spatula until browned and cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate if desired.
Add drained ground beef back to the skillet.
Step 2 | Make Creamy Meat Sauce
Add your favorite pasta or marinara sauce to the ground beef along with pepper, Italian seasoning, and heavy cream. Stir until combined and warmed through.
Step 3 | Toss Ziti in Meat Sauce (or Marinara)
Add the meat sauce to the drained pasta and stir until the pasta is well coated.
Step 4 | Layer Ziti and Cheese
Add half of the ziti and meat sauce mixture to the bottom of a casserole dish. Then top with half of the parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
Then repeat with the remaining ziti mixture and top with remaining cheeses.
Step 5 | Bake and Enjoy
Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes covered.
Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted.
Top with fresh basil or fresh parsley for a garnish
It's easy as that! The results are creamy, cheesy, and bubbly hot pasta bake! Topped off with melty mozzarella (YUM)! See how simple this easy baked ziti recipe is! Makes this perfect for any day of the week!
- Don't over-boil the pasta. Cook to al dente as the noodles will continue to bake while cooking.
- Use your favorite jarred pasta or marinara sauce or make a homemade meat sauce.
- Be sure to preheat the oven before baking. This will allow for thorough cooking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most commonly asked questions about this recipe. If you don't find the answer to yours leave a comment below, I'll get back to you with an answer.
This baked ziti uses ziti pasta, which is a tubular-shaped pasta with a smooth surface. But you can easily substitute penne, which is also tubular-shaped but has ridges on the surface instead of being smooth. You could also use other similar-shaped pasta like large elbow macaroni spiral pasta or even medium-sized shells in this recipe.
Cooking pasta al dente is when you cook it until it just begins to soften. It will still be firm when you bite into it. You do this because the pasta will continue to cook in the sauce while you bake it.
Yes! If you prefer a meatless variety just use your favorite marinara sauce and skip the meat.
Substitutions and Variations:
Storage and Reheating
This recipe is a perfect make-ahead meal. Simply make it 1 to 2 days ahead and wrap well. Store in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Remove from the refrigerator while preheating the oven and bake as directed.
Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap or place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.
Freezing Unbaked Ziti: Assembled ziti casserole using a freezer-safe container. I prefer to top it with cheese after removing it from the freezer. When assembling only use half of the cheese in the middle layer.
Cover with freezer-safe wrap and foil for up to 2 months. Remove plastic, cover with foil, and bake until pasta is hot about 45 to 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake until cheese is lightly browned.
Freezing Baked Ziti: Cool completely, then cover with freezer-safe wrap and foil or transfer to a container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Cover with foil and reheat at 350ºF until hot. Alternatively, cover with plastic wrap and microwave individual portions on high in 30-second intervals.
To reheat individual servings, place desired amount on a microwave-safe dish and reheat. Start with 1 minute and stir. Then add 30-second intervals until heated to your liking.
What should you serve with Baked Ziti?
This dish is substantial enough to be a meal all on its own. But it goes well with some nic crusty garlic bread and a simple side salad. You could also serve it with green beans, fresh cucumber tomato salad, or even this pear and blue cheese salad by Norine's Nest.
Baked Ziti made the easy way! Any way you serve it it's sure to be gobbled right up!
More Delicious Dinner Ideas
Easy Creamy Baked Ziti Recipe
- 1 pound uncooked ziti
- 1 to 1 ¼ pound lean ground beef
- salt to taste
- 48 ounces marinara sauce
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and lightly spray a 9X11 casserole dish with cooking spray.
- In a large saucepan, boil ziti pasta according to package instructions to al dente and drain. Then place ziti back into the pot.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet or pot, cook ground beef over medium-high heat crumbling with a spatula until browned and cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate if desired.Add drained ground beef back to the skillet.
- Add the marinara sauce to the ground beef along with pepper, Italian seasoning, and heavy cream. Stir until combined and warmed through.
- Add the meat sauce to the drained pasta and stir until the pasta is well coated.
- Pour half of the ziti and meat sauce mixture into the bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Then sprinkle with half of the parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
- Layer with the remaining ziti mixture and sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
- Cover and bake at 375° for 25 minutes.
- Remove the cover and bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until the baked ziti is bubbly and the cheese is golden.
- Garnish with parsley or basil and serve.
Soulfully Made is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is only an estimate. We recommend running the ingredients through an online nutritional calculator if you need to verify any information.