I am always looking for easy meals that I can put together in under 30 minutes. This baked ziti can also be prepared ahead of time and placed in the refrigerator and reheated for 15 minutes before serving!
I know I might not be in the majority, but I don't love all that cheese that go in traditional baked ziti.
You know what I'm talking about, soft cheese, like ricotta? And by the way, I am Italian too.
I absolutely do no like it and I never will. I hate the soft, gushy texture and everything else that goes with it.
If you are looking for some other healthier comfort food recipes, you should try this Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup, One Dish Salsa Pasta Chicken Bake, Cheesy Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts or this Zucchini Ravioli. These would all taste delicious with some Spiked Apple Cider too!
Why You Should Make This Easy Baked Ziti
This ziti is so easy, mainly because it only uses shredded mozzarella for cheese. Oh and maybe some grated Parmesan for topping, but that's it.
I have never liked any soft cheeses EVER. But ricotta and cottage cheese are on the top of my list for cheese I despise.
Maybe it's the lumps? Of course it has to be the lumps...
I make this all the time for my family and prepare it ahead of time and place it in the refrigerator until it's ready to cook. It doesn't get much easier than this.
- Pasta- I usually use rigatoni because it is larger and more substantial, but you can use whatever pasta you'd like or have in the house.
- Ground turkey- You can also use ground beef or ground chicken in this baked ziti recipe.
- Crushed Tomatoes- I like to use these crushed tomatoes in an eco-friendly carton but you can use whatever ones you like or find in the grocery store.
- Tomato Sauce- I love to use this marinara sauce because there is no added sugar and it tastes the most like homemade suace!
- salt and pepper
- Mozzarella cheese- I personally buy whole milk blocks of mozzarella cheese and shred it myself using this shredder but you can also buy pre-shred cheese.
- Parmesan cheese- I use fresh grated Parmesan cheese in this recipe because it offers a better taste and texture.
How To Make This Easy Baked Ziti
This really is super easy to make. Simply cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package, drain and set aside.
Brown the ground meat until no longer pink. Add garlic, onion, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil.
Simmer until done and spoon the meat into the remaining sauce. Add pasta to meat sauce and mix well.
Top with desired cheese and bake!
I told you it was ridiculously easy, but it's one of those recipes that everyone loves and it looks like you spent a long time preparing.
Recipe FAQ's and Expert Tips
Some people cover it before placing it in the oven, but I keep it super easy and cook it uncovered.
I like to pour half the pasta/meat mixture in the casserole dish and then top with half of the shredded cheese, then pour the remaining mixture and top with the rest of the shredded mozzarella to prevent the dish from drying out.
If you are cooking the baked ziti coming right out of the refrigerator, you might want to cook for an additional 10 minutes or so until all the cheese has melted and top is lightly browned.
One Dish Salsa Pasta Chicken Bake from Lauren Kelly Nutrition
One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta from Damn Delicious
Healthy Pasta Primavera from Lauren Kelly Nutrition
Tuscan Chicken Pasta from Healthy Fitness Meals
Gluten Free Shrimp Caprese Pasta from Lauren Kelly Nutrition
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The Easiest Baked Ziti
- 1 pound pasta of choice
- 1 pound lean ground turkey
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground basil
- 1 teaspoon ground oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese for topping optional
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pasta, and cook for 7 minutes until al dente.
- In a medium skillet, add the ground turkey. Cook for 15 minutes until no longer pink and thoroughly cooked. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, add the oil. Cook the onion and garlic over medium-high heat for 3–4 minutes until soft. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, making sure to stir every few minutes so the sauce doesn’t stick. Spoon some sauce into a 21⁄2-quart casserole dish so the bottom is covered (to ensure the pasta won’t stick to the bottom). Take 1 cup of sauce mixture and set aside. Spoon the meat into the remaining sauce.
- Add pasta to meat sauce and mix well.
- Add mozzarella cheese, mix again. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese.
- Cover loosely with aluminum foil to prevent drying if you'd like ( I usually leave it uncovered) and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and continue to bake another 10 minutes until the cheese has melted. Let sit for 10 minutes, and serve with the reserved cup of sauce.
Super simple dish to make! I use this recipe now because this is the only Ziti version my kids will eat! I add broccoli and baby carrots, the kids eat it up!! Instructions are super simple to follow! Thanks for posting.
Journa Liz Ramirez
I always have fun making this easy baked ziti. Instructions are so simple, it turned out so delicious and satisfying. Thanks Lauren for this must-try recipe.
This looks so good and I can’t wait to try it! I am one who has to follow a recipe to a T! Lol. Up above, you said you brown the ground meat with oil, onions and garlic. But in the recipe, it says to brown just the meat first. Then you said you don’t cover it to make it easy, but in the recipe, you stated to cover it loosely with foil. Thoughts? Thanks again for sharing! 🙂
Hi Ann! Yes, I need to update this recipe. It's an old recipe that I still make all the time, in fact it was our dinner last night!
You can either brown the meat with onion and garlic or save it for when you cook the sauce. I've made it both ways which is why its a little contradictory and I need to fix that 🙂
As for whether to cover with foil, again this can go either way. I've made it both ways and usually do not cover it up. I hope that helps, thanks for stopping by!
This dish is a cinch to make. I make it at least once a month.
Baked ziti is a family favorite!! It really is super easy to make & my kids love how cheesy it is!
This is a no fail recipe. It comes out great every time and everyone loves it! I also love how cheesy it is!
Thanks For Sharing this Amazing Recipe. My Family Loved It. I will be sharing this Recipe with my Friends. Hope They will like it.
I am so glad you liked it!
I completely agree with you on the ricotta! And though I actually enjoy cottage cheese, I prefer to leave it out of my ziti! I love your take on the dish. Wonderfully delicious!
Thanks Betsy! So happy you liked it!
Definitely a family favorite! So excited to make this again soon! So delicious and tasty!
Thanks for stopping by Beth!
This quickly became a favorite at my house! It is really good!
Yay! Thanks Toni!
Great! I just finished it last night and the result was unexpected, my wife and daughter both liked it, which made me happy. Thanks for your recipe!
I am so happy you all enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by!
Now it is holiday and I have a lot of time to make whatever I want and your baked ziti recipe is always one of my favourite choice! Happy New Year!
Enjoy! Happy New Year to you!
I have never eaten ziti before.
Your photo looks colorful and delicious, makes me curious, maybe I will try following this recipe tonight.
I hope you love it!
Taught my g-daughter this recipe to teach her how to read a recipe and cook it. Came out delicious.
Chef Eric Levine
I love your recipe. Looking at this dish has already seen cravings. Yummy. It is delicious and nutritious. This is my favorite food. I followed your recipe. It is really simple and efficient. Thanks for your useful article. Delicious and amazing.