This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

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.

What could be better than a saucy pasta dish for dinner? This is a meal that the whole family will love like our baked stuffed shells or the ultimate baked spaghetti! Pure comfort food!

A plate full of baked ziti topped with melted cheese and parsley with a casserole dish in the background.

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.

Here’s what you will need for the Best Baked Ziti:

Ingredient Notes

  • Uncooked Ziti Pasta: Use your favorite brand or buy what is on sale. I always keep pasta stocked in my pantry for when I want this dish.
  • Ground Beef: I like lean ground beef. Use what you have on hand and what you love.
  • Salt, Pepper & Italian Seasoning: Salt to taste as you cook your meat, then add in the black pepper and Italian seasoning to give extra flavors.
  • 2 Jars of Sauce – Pasta or Marinara Sauce: Use your favorite jarred sauce. The nice thing is there are so many choices in the grocery store that are of great quality. They do all the cooking so this can be made in a flash. If you want something super saucy try kicking up your jarred sauce or making homemade sauce.
  • Heavy Cream: This puts the creamy in creamy baked ziti. I could add heavy cream to just about anything. It really adds a special something.
  • Parmesan Cheese and Mozzarella Cheese: I love the combination of tangy parmesan and creamy mozzarella for the perfect cheesy taste! I recommend using whole milk mozzarella you can purchase it whole and shred it yourself. I also love Sargento shredded whole milk mozzarella, it melts very well.

How to make Creamy Baked Ziti

Be sure to see the recipe card below for exact ingredients and full recipe 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

Three image collage showing ground beef with pasta sauce added, then adding heavy cream and mixing until combined.

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.

Two image collage showing pasta and then pasta mixed with meat sauce in a pan.

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!

Overhead image of a clear casserole dish filled with baked ziti topped with mozzarella cheese and fresh parsley.

Tips

  • 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.

Can I substitute penne or other pasta?

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.

What does al dente mean?

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.

Can I use marinara instead of meat sauce?

Yes! If you prefer a meatless variety just use your favorite marinara sauce and skip the meat.

A spoon full of ziti with meat sauce being taken from a glass casserole dish.

Substitutions and Variations:

  • Want a non-creamy version? Leave out the heavy cream, it’s delicious like that as well.
  • Don’t have heavy cream add some ricotta cheese, cream cheese, or cottage cheese into the pasta sauce instead. Or use a ricotta cheese mixture as a layer like you would for baked lasagna.
  • Spice it up by using some red pepper flakes or throw a few jarred pepperoncini peppers and a little of the juice into the sauce.
  • Love garlic! Add fresh minced garlic to your sauce.
  • Make it meatless by leaving out the ground beef! Use marinara rather than meat sauce for a great meat-free dinner option.
  • Swap out ground beef for Italian sausage, ground turkey or chicken, or even a spicy sausage.
  • Want to use some veggies add in fresh spinach or bell peppers.

Storage and Reheating

Make-Ahead:

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.

Storage:

Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap or place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

Freeze:

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.

Reheat:

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.

an overhead image of easy baked ziti placed on a white plate with a fork to the side with a red cloth underneath.

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

Hungry for more easy, home-cooked, delicious recipes?

Sign up for my free recipe club to get family-friendly recipes in your inbox each week! Find me sharing daily meal-time inspiration on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Creamy baked ziti pasta topped with melted parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
Recipe
5 from 6 votes

(click stars to rate)

Easy Creamy Baked Ziti Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Nikki Lee
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.
Add to Shopping List

Ingredients 

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1serving Calories: 647kcal (32%) Carbohydrates: 54g (18%) Protein: 40g (80%) Fat: 30g (46%) Saturated Fat: 17g (106%) Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g Monounsaturated Fat: 9g Trans Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 128mg (43%) Sodium: 1329mg (58%) Potassium: 965mg (28%) Fiber: 5g (21%) Sugar: 9g (10%) Vitamin A: 1616IU (32%) Vitamin C: 12mg (15%) Calcium: 408mg (41%) Iron: 4mg (22%)

Nutritional Disclaimer

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.

©️Soulfully Made

Did You Make This?I love to see what you made! Tag me @soulfullymade_ and hashtag #SoulfullyMade
Pin Recipe Tag on Insta Share on Facebook Leave Review

Please share

5 from 6 votes (6 ratings without comment)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

RATE THIS RECIPE




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.