Looking for an easy weeknight dinner that will surely become a family favorite? This Easy Meatless Baked Ziti recipe is it! This recipe is a fantastic pasta bake that's super flavorful and a great dish to serve your hungry family.
This dish makes a lot, so it's a great recipe for leftovers, too. I've got all the tips for how to reheat baked ziti easily and perfectly!
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Baked Ziti vs Lasagna
Baked Ziti and lasagna are both common types of baked pasta recipes. They have a lot in common, but also some key differences.
Baked Ziti is a baked pasta dish that's a mixture of ziti noodles, sauce, and a cheese mixture that includes ricotta cheese, egg, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and seasonings. This dish can include a meat sauce made with ground beef or sausage. In this baked ziti recipe, meat is omitted.
Lasagna is a layered pasta dish that's made with a meat sauce, layers of lasagna noodles, a ricotta mixture including mozzarella cheese, egg and seasonings. Both dishes are typically baked in a lasagna pan or 9x13-inch baking pan and topped with shredded mozzarella.
Ingredients Need to Make This Recipe
To make classic meatless baked ziti, you'll need the following ingredients:
- Package Ziti pasta: Any brand, including gluten-free ziti will work in this recipe. You can substitute the ziti noodles for another type of tube pasta such as rigatoni or penne pasta
- Ricotta Cheese: Incorporating creamy ricotta is the very best part of this dish, in my opinion! If you happen to run out of ricotta, you can even make your own in less than 30 minutes!
- Large Egg
- Parmesan cheese: finely grated parmesan cheese works best here. You can substitute for pecorino romano, too
- Mozzarella Cheese: I recommend buying a block of part-skim mozzarella and shredding or grating the cheese yourself. Oftentimes, pre-shredded cheese contains anti-caking ingredients that prevent it from melting well. For best results, you're better off grating your own cheese
- Spaghetti Sauce: Use your favorite variety or flavor. I recommend using a flavored sauce versus a plain tomato sauce. Using jar spaghetti sauce cuts down significantly on the amount of time it takes the prep this recipe. With so many great varieties of sauce available, this is a great time saving tip!
How to Make the Best Baked Ziti Recipe
To begin, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water for 2-3 minutes less than the package directions. This will ensure the cooked pasta is slightly firmer than al dente when you add it to the other ingredients. It will continue cooking in the oven to the perfect doneness.
While the pasta cooks, add to a large bowl the ricotta, half the mozzarella (reserve the rest for topping), parmesan cheese , and egg, stirring until combined. Add in the pasta sauce and mix well. Once the past is done cooking, strain it and add it to the bowl with the other ingredients.
Pour or spoon pasta mixture into the prepared baking pan and top with the remaining mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of parmesan. Cover with foil that's been sprayed with nonstick spray (this will prevent the cheese from sticking to it) and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking for 15 minutes or until the pasta bake is bubbling and the cheese is browning on top.
Allow the baked dish to rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting into portions and serving.
If you are looking for another meatless dinner recipe, prepare this Chewy Pizza Dough recipe and create some fun cheesy pizza for dinner or add some delicious veggies to the top and dig in!
How to Store Leftovers
To store, allow the baked ziti to come to room temperature then cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and seal around the edges. Place in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you do not have enough room in your fridge for the baking dish, simply cut the ziti into individual servings and place in a glass or plastic container with a tightly fitting cover.
How to Reheat Baked Ziti
The best way to reheat baked ziti is to place it in a preheated 350ºF oven for 20-30 minutes. I would recommend reheating it in a baking dish. The secret to ensure the baked ziti does not dry out is to cover it with aluminum foil while reheating. This will ensure the steam remains within the dish to retain moisture.
If you notice your baked ziti is too dry, add some additional spaghetti sauce to the ziti before reheating it. This will ensure the liquid adds back some moisture into the baked dish.
Microwaving individual servings is also a great way to reheat backed ziti. Place 1-2 servings of ziti on a microwave safe dish and cover with wax paper or a damp paper towel. Heat for 1 ½ - 2 minutes or more, depending on your microwave, at 50% power. The microwave does a great job at retaining moisture in this reheated dish.
How to Freeze Baked Ziti
Freezing baked ziti is easy. For a family of four, this recipe yields 10-12 servings. This leaves plenty of leftovers for dinner another night.
To freeze baked ziti, cut into portions, wrap each one in plastic wrap and store in a freezer-safe ziplock bag for up to 3 months. To defrost, leave in the fridge overnight then warm in a 350 degrees F oven for 20-30 minutes in a foil covered baking dish. Alternatively, defrost the frozen ziti in the microwave at 50% power for 3-5 minutes, or until warmed through.
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Baked Ziti Side Dishes
Looking for side dishes to serve with baked ziti? Here are a few of my favorites:
- Dutch Oven Bread: This recipe requires very minimal hands-on time, although it does require a bit of planning. Prepare it the day before you want to bake. For the recipe linked, omit the cheese and seasoning for a plain crusty bread with which to sop up that delicious baked ziti!
- Challah Rolls: The interior of this challah is light and airy with a golden crust. Perfect for your weeknight bread basket!
- Pull Apart Potato Rolls: This Pull-Apart Potato Rolls recipe will become your new go-to for special occasions, holiday meals, or any occasion! Incorporating mashed potatoes into the bread dough helps create super light, fluffy rolls that are simply irresistible.
To make this baked ziti vegan, substitute the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese for vegan versions. Omit the egg or use your favorite egg replacer such as a flax egg. Be sure the spaghetti sauce you use is also vegan.
To make this baked ziti gluten-free, simply replace the ziti for your favorite gluten-free pasta.
If you forgot to buy ricotta or you're out of it, one option is to make your own ricotta. It sounds like it would be a lot of work, but I promise you, it's not. You can have fresh, homemade riccotta cheese to use in your baked ziti recipe in less than 30 minutes.
Other substitutions for ricotta cheese in this recipe include cottage cheese, sour cream, mascarpone and cream cheese.
For best results, bake the ziti covered for the first 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking another 15 minutes to allow the cheese to brown slightly.
The best way to ensure baked ziti doesn't dry out is to cover all the pasta in the casserole dish with sauce. If some pieces of pasta are left uncovered, they will dry out in the oven and even become hard and crispy.
When reheating baked ziti, try pouring additional spaghetti sauce over top of the ziti to lock in additional moisture. Warming baked ziti in the microwave will prevent the ziti from drying out like it can in the oven.
Technically, pasta does not need to be cooked before baking it in a dish like baked ziti. If there is enough liquid in the casserole, the pasta will cook while the casserole cooks.
However, to avoid the baked ziti overcooking and becoming dry before the pasta fully cooks, I would recommend cooking the ziti noodles for 2-3 less than the package calls for so the pasta is a bit firmer than al dente. This will ensure the pasta cooks until perfectly done while baking in the oven, without drying out.
Additional Weeknight Dinner Recipes
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- 16 ounces (1 pound) uncooked ziti
- 24 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg, lightly whisked with a fork
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling on top
- 16 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 32 ounces jarred spaghetti sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta according to package instructions, cooking 2-3 minutes less than the package indicates.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a large bowl, stir together the ricotta, egg, parmesan cheese, ½ the mozzarella cheese and the spaghetti sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Depending on the variety of spaghetti sauce I use, I tend to omit any additional salt and pepper or add ¼ - ½ teaspoon of each if the sauce is plain
- Once the pasta has finished cooking, strain and add to the bowl with the other ingredients. Stir well. Spoon into a 9x13” baking dish and sprinkle the top with the remaining mozzarella cheese and extra grated parmesan cheese, if desired
- Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking 10-15 mins longer until the cheese is starting to brown and the ziti is bubbling.
- Remove from the oven and let stand 10-15 minutes before serving
- Store leftover ziti tightly covered in the fridge for up to a week.
- To reheat, place in a preheated 350ºF oven for 10-12 minutes
- To freeze, cut into portions, wrap each one in plastic wrap and store in a freezer-safe ziplock bag for up to 3 months. To defrost, leave in the fridge overnight then warm in a 350ºF oven for 10 minutes. Or, defrost in the microwave at 50% power
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