Easy Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti Easy

We love pasta in our house, and Baked Ziti is easy to make but more fun than spaghetti.  This dish is a favorite with the kids, HELLO pasta!  Baked Ziti easy is full of flavor and combination of the Italian sausage, and a light tomato cream sauce is delicious.  

Many people like to compare Baked Ziti to an easy to make lasagna.   I guess there are some similarities, and it is less fuss, but it is no lasagna. They both have pasta, use tomatoes, mozzarella, and can have ricotta, but that covers a lot of Italian dishes!  Baked Ziti needs to be recognized as a great dish on its own merits! 

Baked Ziti Easy is a great weeknight dish that can be prepped ahead of time for those busy moms out there! It is also great for potlucks and entertaining guests.

Pasta Shells

Lets talk Pasta!

What is Al Dente?

Al Dente is a word typically used to describe how pasta should be cooked.  It refers to if the pasta is still firm when bitten.  

Help I can’t find ziti noodles!?!?

Don’t worry you have options!  You can easily use ziti, penne or rigatoni noodles.  Here is a summary of the different noddles.


Ziti is a tube-shaped pasta noodle and typically takes 9 to 15 minutes to cook. It is smaller than rigatoni and may have smooth sides or ridges.   It is similar to penne but usually has the ends cut in a straight line versus diagonally like penne.


Penne is a cylinder-shaped pasta and typically take 10-13 minutes to cook. The pasta is generally smooth with the ends cut diagonally as it was intended to imitate a fountain pen’s steel nibs


Rigatoni is a short, wide tube pasta that has ridges on the outside. It typically takes 10-14 minutes to cook. Rigatoni is typically larger than penne and ziti noodles.


Adding Veggies to Baked Ziti

If you are vegetarian or just trying to healthy things up a bit, there are several options for adding vegetables to your baked Ziti.


Spinach is always a great addition to almost any casserole or Italian dish and perfect for sneaking veggies into a meal.  When cooked, it has a subtle flavor, so it blends nicely and will not overpower the meal.  If you have a veggie adverse member in your family, I suggest chopping the spinach up, versus adding full leaf spinach to the dish outside of seeing green they will not even know it is there!

Spinach is known as a superfood! It is loaded with nutrients and provides calcium, iron, and folate, along with other vitamins!  

How to Add Spinach to Baked Ziti

You can use fresh or frozen.  I would recommend adding it on step 5.

Bell Peppers

Add some color to your dish by using a bell pepper or two!  I would suggest using red, orange, or yellow, not green, due to the sweetness. The longer a pepper matures on the plant, the more it ripens and the sweeter it becomes.  Tasting Table has an excellent overview that red and yellow bell peppers are essentially just green peppers that have been allowed to ripen.  Red peppers are the sweetest; green is on the more mildly bitter side.

How to add bell peppers to baked Ziti

You will want to dice the bell peppers up and add at step 4 with the garlic and onions.


Zucchini is one of the most versatile vegetables out there due to the mild flavor (although it is technically a fruit, that is topic for another day).  The Food Revolution calls it a nutrient-dense food chock full of B6, riboflavin, folate, vitamin C, and potassium. 

How to add zucchini to baked Ziti

To add the zucchini, you will want to add a step between 4 and 5.  Lets call it 4a!  Once you complete step 4 of sauteing the garlic and onions, you will want to add the zucchini.  Saute the zucchini about 5-7 minutes until soft and continue to step 5.


Mushrooms are fun to cook with in dishes that have a lot of flavors.  They seem to absorb the flavor from the dish and provide a burst in the bite.  For Baked Ziti, I would use either a white or button mushroom.

How to add mushrooms to baked Ziti

If you have people that are not a fan of mushrooms, I would suggest chopping them up and they may not even know they are in there (ask my hubby).  However, if you are a mushroom lover like myself, just slice them up.  To add the mushrooms, you will want to add a step between 4 and 5.  Let’s call it 4b!  Once you complete step 4 of sauteing the garlic and onions, you will want to add the mushroom.  Saute the mushrooms about 5 minutes until soft and continue to step 5.

Baked Ziti Easy


Make-Ahead: This dish can be prepped ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.  Prepare the meal through step 7 and the cover and place it in the fridge.  When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 425 F.  Cook the dish covered tightly with tin foil for about 20 minutes.  Remove the tin foil and until the cheese is starting to brown (about 10 to 15 minutes).

Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The dish can be as well for preparation ahead of time.  Prepare the meal through step 7 cover tightly and place in the freezer.  When you’re ready to cook it, defrost in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours, then proceed with the Make-Ahead instructions above.

More Italian Favorites

Homemade Manicotti

Homemade Manicotti – A classica italian dish full of pasta stuffed with ricotta and mozzerella cheese over an Italian meat sauce.

Spagetti Main

Homemade Italian Meat Sauce: Nothing beats a homemade Italian meat sauce, eat on plain pasta or use the sauce in lasagna and manicotti.

Baked Ziti Easy

Baked Ziti Easy

Baked Ziti Easy is full of flavor and combination of the Italian sausage, and a light tomato cream sauce is delicious.  Baked Ziti easy is a great weeknightdish that can be prepped ahead of time for those busy moms out there! It isalso great for potlucks and entertaining guests.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8
Calories 751 kcal


  • casserole dish
  • 6 quart pot
  • large skillet


  • 1 lb ziti noodles
  • 1.5 lbs sweet italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 10 cloves garlic minced
  • 1-28 oz crushed tomatoes can
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese shredded
  • 2 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded


  • Pre-heat oven to 425 F
  •  Bring a large pot of to a boil and bake the Ziti according to the package instructions.  However, you will want to go on the short end of the cook time to ensure the pasta is very al dente (around 7 minutes).  The pasta will continue to cook in the oven.
  • Heat a large sauté pan (preferably nonstick) over medium heat. Begin cooking the sausage and crumble it apart as it cooks. Once the sausage is browned moved to the next step.
  •  Add the garlic and onions cook for about 3-5 minutes until soft. 
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, dried basil salt, sugar, and red pepper flakes and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add the heavy cream, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, to the pan; stir until combined. Pour the contents of the pan into the large pot with the pasta and mix together.
  • Spoon half of the mixture into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the shredded mozzarella and half of Pecorino Romano. Spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  • Place the casserole dish uncovered in the oven until the cheese begins to brown (about 10-15 minutes).
Keyword Baked ziti easy, baked ziti meat, baked ziti recipe, baked ziti recipe best, baked ziti sausage, baked ziti vegetables, baked ziti with vegetables

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