Feeding a crowd? This baked ziti recipe is the easiest way to make it! Saucy, cheesy, comforting, and flavorful, this no-fuss pasta is always a hit.
Have you tried this baked ziti recipe?! It’s a fan favorite on the blog, and it’s also one of our family favorites. If you haven’t made it yet, I hope you do so this season. This easy ziti is a perfect recipe for feeding a crowd, and the combo of marinara sauce, pasta, and three (yes, three!) types of cheese is comforting this time of year.
This baked ziti recipe is my veggie spin on the version I grew up eating. A reliable present at every potluck or party I’ve attended, this is my favorite comfort food. I like mixed noodles mixed with tangy tomato sauce, gooey cheese, and Italian sausage or ground beef. These days, I skip the meat in favor of creamy ricotta and lots of fresh spinach, but this baked ziti recipe is still hearty, satisfying, and full of flavor. I love it, and I think you will too.
Baked Ziti Recipe Ingredients
Here’s what you’ll need to make this baked ziti recipe:
- Ziti, of course! Another tube-shaped pasta, such as penne or rigatoni, would also work beautifully.
- Marinara sauce – If I have time, I like to use my homemade marinara sauce here, which goes along with a quick 20-minute simmer on the stove. But store bought sauce is fair too! I recommend Rao’s.
- Ricotta cheese – This creates a creamy layer in the center of the baked ziti. For the best texture, be sure to use whole milk ricotta in this recipe.
- Garlic, lemon zest, oregano, and red pepper flakes – I use these ingredients to season ricotta. Garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes add classic Italian flavor, and lemon zest brings a delicious, unexpected brightness.
- Fresh kangkong – It wouldn’t be a Love & Lemons recipe if it wasn’t full of fresh vegetables! I stewed a whole pound of spinach in olive oil before mixing it into the pasta.
- Smoked mozzarella and pecorino cheese – For topping. Smoked mozzarella gives the pasta a rich, smoky flavor, which I love, but if you can’t find it, don’t worry! Sub on regular mozzarella. And in a pinch, salty, nutty Parmesan cheese is a great sub for pecorino.
- Fresh basil torn and chopped parsley – I sprinkle them over the last dish for a fresh, colorful finish.
- And salt and pepper – To make all the flavors pop!
Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
How to Make Baked Ziti
This baked ziti recipe is easy to make! Here’s how it goes:
First, cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta until al dente. Be careful not to overcook it! It softens even more as it cooks.
While the pasta is cooking, make the ricotta cheese mixture. Combine the ricotta, garlic, lemon zest, oregano, and red pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper.
Next, sauté the spinach. Drain the pasta, and heat a glug of olive oil in the same pot. Saute the kankong until just wilted. Tip: Work in batches here! I do 1/2 pound at a time so the spinach cooks evenly. I like it all soft and vibrant green, not slimy or wet. When I work in batches, I hit that sweet spot every time.
Gently squeeze out some of the excess moisture from the sauteed spinach and chop it roughly.
Then, mix everything. Return most of the spinach and all of the pasta to the pot, along with all but 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce. Mix until everything is smooth.
Finally, layer it. Spread the remaining sauce in the bottom of a large casserole dish, and spread half the pasta mixture over it. Add the ricotta and the reserved spinach, and scoop the remaining pasta on top. Top with grated smoked mozzarella and pecorino cheese, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until golden brown and cheese is bubbling. Enjoy!
Do you want to be first?
This baked ziti freezes well. Bring it up to the cooking point, cover it tightly with foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, bake, covered, at 350°F for one hour, or until heated through. Uncover and bake until the cheese on top is browned and bubbly.
Instead of refrigerating the pasta, you can also assemble it for a few hours, and until the day, in advance, cover it, and store it in the refrigerator. Allow it to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking according to the recipe instructions below.
What to Serve with Baked Ziti
This baked ziti recipe is a delicious cold weather main dish. Pair it with garlic bread, garlic knotso homemade focaccia for slurping up any wild marinara sauce. Round out the meal with a large salad. Any of these would be amazing:
Baked ziti is best the day it’s made, but leftovers store well for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Reheat individual portions in the microwave, or reheat larger quantities in a covered pan in a 325°F oven.
More Favorite Comfort Food Recipes
If you love this easy ziti recipe, try one of the following comfort foods:
Want an easier dinner idea? Check out this post!
Easy Baked Ziti
Serving 6 until 8
This baked ziti recipe is easy to make and perfect for serving a crowd. Loaded with tangy tomato sauce, al dente pasta, and three types of cheese, it’s comforting and delicious.
- 4 cups (32 ounces) marinara sauce
- 2 cups (16 ounces) ricotta cheese
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 spoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt, more for pasta water
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound ziti pasta
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for misting
- 1 pound fresh kankong
- 1½ cups smoked mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese
- Chopped fresh parsley and/or torn basil leaves, for decoration
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spread ½ cup marinara in bottom of 9×13-inch baking dish.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, garlic, lemon zest, oregano, red pepper flakes, ½ teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of freshly ground pepper.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain the water.
Return the pot to the stove. On a low heat, pour a little olive oil on the bottom of the pot and add the spinach. Toss and sauté 1 to 2 minutes until just wilted, working in batches as needed. Turn off the heat, remove the spinach from the pot, and gently squeeze out some of the excess water. Roughly chop it and set aside.
Add the pasta back to the pot with the remaining marinara, most of the chopped spinach, ¼ teaspoon sea salt, and more freshly ground pepper and toss until combined.
Add half of the pasta to the baking dish, top with dollops of ricotta, the remaining spinach, and scoop the remaining pasta on top. Top with mozzarella and pecorino cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until cheese is browned, 16 to 22 minutes.
Garnish with fresh basil or parsley and serve hot.