BeefCuisineItalianMainsMeatQuick & Easy

Baked Ziti

20 mins Cook
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Baked Ziti is more than just baked pasta Bolognese…it’s big, juicy baked pasta packed with flavor from a healthy dose of seasoning and topped with lots of cheese. Comfort food, simple enough for midweek but worth it.

Bonus: The Perfect Frozen Meal!

Baked Ziti
Baked Ziti NomNomWow

Baked Ziti

Let’s be clear here – this isn’t just another pasta cook. It’s the mother of all pasta!

While some recipes may just make baked penne with a basic Bolognese sauce, this one is made with a generous amount of seasoning that adds plenty of flavor to the meat itself, which is then seeps into the tomato sauce as it simmers…

This is one of the best pasta sauces you can make without simmering for hours like we do with our Ragu. You may never make bolognese again – make pasta with this bolognese!

What is Baked Ziti?

Baked Ziti is a classic American pasta cooked in a tomato Bolognese sauce. “Ziti” is a pasta that looks like penne except it has a smooth surface instead of ridges.

Although Baked Ziti is an Italian-American dish, it has Italian origins – baked pasta like this has been around in Italy for centuries!

There is no established method of manufacture. Some like to use all beef, others pork, and still others Italian sausage.
People use different cheeses, some make them meatless, and they all have different seasonings.

I make this version of the classic – except I like to use extra seasonings to enhance the flavor of the sauce!

What goes in Baked Ziti

Here are the ingredients for my Baked Ziti.

  • Meat – The classic version uses all the beef, but if you want the stew to be even tastier, use a 50/50 mix of pork and beef (pork adds richness and flavor to the stew!) .
  • Tomato Passata – While most recipes will use regular crushed tomatoes for the sauce, I opt for using Tomato Passata* – known in the US as tomato puree – because it makes this pasta more juicy. Because they are thick and creamy, they create a better sauce. There’s nothing sadder than breaking a golden cheese top to discover the dry pasta underneath!
    In contrast, crushed or diced tomatoes add chunks of tomatoes to a thinner tomato sauce. It still works, but the sauce won’t be as thick or cover the pasta as pictured. To use canned tomatoes instead, it’s best to add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to help thicken.

It’s the seasoning. Fennel is optional, but if you use a combination of pork and beef for the stew, it will give it a special flavor because pork and fennel is a classic combination!

How to make it

If you know how to make bolognese, you can bake pasta at home! Once the bolognese is ready, just assemble it:

  • mix some bolognese with pasta;
  • pour into baking dish;
  • topped with ricotta; and
  • drizzle with remaining Bolognese and cover Serve with cheese.

America likes to add ricotta to lasagna type things and we don’t have that here. But out of respect for authenticity, I added ricotta to this Baked Ziti, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be going back to it now. It’s like this extra smoothness between all the goodness of tomato, meat and cheese…

What goes with Baked Ziti

Here are some suggestions for ancillary services. Of course, no one will complain if you bring garlic bread to the table, but to add vegetables to your meal, add a salad! A classic combination is arugula/rugula salad with vinaigrette and parmesan cheese.

Ah, the weekend is here. Tonight, I see myself sitting on the couch eating a bowl of baked macaroni while lazily watching something on Netflix. Here’s a Friday night worth planning!

Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti is more than just baked pasta Bolognese…it's big, juicy baked pasta packed with flavor from a healthy dose of seasoning and topped with lots of cheese. Comfort food, simple enough for midweek but worth it.
prep time
10 mins
cooking time
20 mins
total time
30 mins



  • 300g / 10oz ziti or penne pasta (Note 1)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 3 garlic cloves , minced

  • 1 small onion (brown, white or yellow), finely chopped

  • 500g / 1 lb ground beef or pork OR 50/50 combo (Note 2)

  • 700g / 24 oz tomato passata (pureed tomato, Note 3)

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1 tsp EACH dried basil, oregano, sugar

  • 1 cup ricotta , optional (Note 4)

  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (or other melting cheese)

  • 1 cup parmesan , freshly grated (optional)

  • Finely chopped parsley or basil (optional garnish)


  • 2 tsp fennel seeds (optional, Note 5)

  • 1 tbsp paprika (plain or sweet)

  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper OR 3/4 tsp chilli flakes (adjust to taste)

  • 2 tsp onion powder

  • 1 tsp EACH salt and black pepper


Cook the macaroni according to the cooking time recommended on the package less 2 minutes. (Note 5) Drain and return to pot.
Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
To make the sauce: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes or until the onion is translucent.
Add the meat and cook, breaking it up as you go. Barely cooked, add the seasoning and cook for 2 minutes.
Add passata, water, basil, oregano and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste (remember this is spread over a lot of pasta).
Pour the Viola Sauce: Pour about 2 cups of sauce into the pot with the Viola. Throw.
Assembly: Spread the macaroni in a baking dish (23x33cm / 9x13"). Dip in the ricotta. Pour the rest of the sauce.
Top with cheese and Parmesan.
To cook: Cover loosely with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown.
Serve: Sprinkle with parsley or basil, if desired, and serve!


Ziti - Macaroni is the same shape as macaroni, but macaroni is smooth whereas macaroni is ridged. If you can't find ziti, you can use macaroni or other similarly shaped pasta such as macaroni, spiral pasta, or even macaroni. Meat - My favorite is the 50/50 beef and pork (used in the video), but I usually make it with beef or pork. Tomato passata is called tomato puree in the United States. It's just pure tomato puree. It's not tomato sauce, it's sweet and sour concentrated tomatoes. This results in a thicker, smoother sauce than using crushed canned tomatoes. In Australia, you can find it in the pasta section of supermarkets and it's good and cheap, cheaper than canned tomatoes. Substitute: Use 800 g (28 oz) canned crushed tomatoes + 2 tbsp. tablespoon tomato paste. Use a blender to puree canned tomatoes, or use a regular store-bought pasta sauce (Marinara) instead, or what is known in the US as tomato sauce (passata with a little seasoning ). Ricotta Cheese – Optional. For a classic American baked ziti experience, include it! Be sure to use creamy ricotta and not dry ricotta. If it is crumbly, use milk or cream to make it creamier. Fennel is an essential seasoning in authentic Italian sausages. If frozen, thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours. Then cook for about 30 to 35 minutes, 25 minutes covered, 10 minutes uncovered (a little longer if the roast is cold).
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