Baked Ziti with Ricotta cheese is a classic Italian dish that is perfect for feeding a crowd and also great for a cozy night. This dish is made with ziti pasta, a tomato-based sauce, and 3 different kinds of cheese. It can also include other ingredients such as ground beef, ground pork, sausage, chicken, or vegetables, my favorite is baked ziti with ground beef; it is a simple yet delicious dish that is great for large gatherings or parties and can be made ahead of time and reheated, or made fresh and served immediately.
You can easily make this simple baked ziti vegetarian by swapping out the ground beef for some of your favorite veggies. Or, if you’re looking for something different, feel free to switch the ground beef with some sausage or ground chicken. No matter how you make it, baked ziti is a classic comfort food that always hit the spot. This isn’t your average mac and cheese recipe, but it might be the next best thing to add to your menu and you’ll find tips to make an Italian-baked ziti recipe of your very own!
One of the best things about this easy baked ziti recipe is that it’s a pretty forgiving dish. You can make it with just about any type of pasta, you don’t necessarily have to use ziti pasta, any other short tube pasta like penne, manicotti, rigatoni, or cannelloni will still work.
This recipe for baked ziti is a classic favorite made even better with a few simple tips and tricks. For starters, I used ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese in the cooked pasta. These add a sort of creaminess and depth of flavor that you just can’t get from just a single cheese alone. However, you can still make your baked ziti with no ricotta cheese and it will still come out nice and creamy.
Additionally, I’ve found that the key to a good baked ziti with ground beef is to slightly undercook the pasta before adding it to the meat sauce. This ensures that it will retain its shape and not turn into a mushy mess. Another key to best baked ziti recipe is in the layering – a layer of meat sauce, followed by a layer of pasta, then a layer of cheese.
And be sure to use a good quality tomato sauce or pasta sauce for this recipe. I like to use homemade marinara sauce, but any of your favorite jarred sauces will do; just make sure to be generous with the sauce, you want every bite to be suffused with flavor. Finally, a generous sprinkling of mozzarella and parmesan will give the dish a nice cheesy flavor and a golden finish. Also, a good mix of ricotta cheese will give you the perfect balance of flavor and creaminess. These are the major tricks that make baked ziti so great and enjoyable dish.
See also: Roasted chicken breast
Baked ziti with ricotta cheese, what is it?
Baked ziti is a dish that originates from the Italian region of Sicily. It is made with a type of pasta called ziti, which is a short, tubular pasta. The ziti pasta is mixed in a tomato sauce made with ground beef, garlic, and onions. Also, ricotta cheese is added to give it a creamy consistency and once it is mixed, the ziti is then baked in the oven with different cheeses on top.
There are so many different ways to make baked ziti. Some recipes call for the addition of meat, such as sausage, ground beef, ground chicken, ground pork, or shrimp. Others include vegetables, such as spinach, red peppers, sundried tomatoes, or roasted tomatoes. I love baked ziti because it is a hearty dish that is perfect for a winter meal and can be served as a main course or as a side dish. It is also a great dish to take to potlucks or parties because it can be made ahead of time and reheated when ready to serve.
Related: Oven roasted chicken thighs
Variation of baked ziti with ricotta cheese
There are many variations of baked ziti with ricotta cheese. Some recipes call for mixing together ricotta, egg, and parsley to create a creamy paste, while some make it without the addition of egg. Also, some people love their baked ziti with no ricotta cheese and without ground meat, while others enjoy it with ricotta. You can as well use different types of pasta in this dish, such as rigatoni or penne.
This rich and easy-baked ziti with ricotta cheese can be made in so many different ways. There are also many recipes for vegetarian baked ziti that are just as delicious as the traditional meat-based versions. To make a tasty vegetarian baked ziti, simply omit the ground meat from the recipe and replace it with extra marinara sauce and veggies, such as mushrooms, zucchini, and red peppers to create a flavorful and hearty dish. You can as well add some proteins such as tofu, tempeh, or seitan sausage to your baked ziti to ensure that your dish is satisfying and filling.
This baked ziti recipe is simple to follow and yields delicious results. The key to making great baked ziti is to use high-quality ingredients. Be sure to use good-quality pasta, sauce, and cheese for the best flavor and texture.
Baked ziti Ingredients
- 16 ounces (4 cups) of ziti pasta or any short pasta will do
- 1 pound ground beef, pork, chicken, or Italian sausage
- 1 jar (24 ounces) of marinara sauce or any of your favorite tomato-based sauce
- 2 tbsp tomato paste, optional
- 1 and1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese for topping
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped onions
- 3 minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
- 1 tsp paprika
- 11/2 tsp of salt
- 2 tbsp fresh basil or parsley for garnish
- 1/2 cup of beef stock
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the pasta, I like to use ziti pasta because it has a nice firmness to it. This helps it hold up well to the sauce and cheese without getting mushy. Ziti is a type of tube-shaped pasta with the perfect size for scooping up hearty meat sauce and melted cheese. Rigatoni or penne pasta is also a great substitute.
This is the base of the dish and will really make a difference in the flavor. The sauce should be thick and rich, full of flavor, A good quality tomato sauce or marinara sauce should be flavorful and slightly sweet. You can use your favorite store-bought marinara sauce for this recipe if you have the chance to pick one from the grocery store.
Also, a simple tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce will be great too, but feel free to get creative with your flavors. To save time, you can make the sauce at home a day ahead, but if you’re short on time, make sure to use a good quality store-bought marinara sauce or any of your favorite jarred sauces from the store.
Baked Ziti with Ricotta cheese and other cheeses
I like to use a mixture of ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese in this baked ziti to create a flavorful and bubbly top, but feel free to use your favorite cheese or whatever you have on hand and use plenty of it. Be sure to drain the ricotta cheese before adding it to the ziti mixture, or your dish will be watery. Ricotta cheese helps to bind the ingredients together; It is a fresh cheese made from milk and cream. It is smooth, and creamy, with a slightly grainy texture.
I added a little bit of liquid stock to the meat sauce but you can use water if you don’t have it handy. The stock adds a rich, meaty flavor to the dish that really enhances the flavor of the pasta and sauce. You can use vegetable stock or plain water in place of beef stock.
Baked ziti ground beef
I love the fact that this recipe can be made with just any kind of meat. I used ground beef and if using that too, you will need to use lean ground beef or simply use ground pork for this recipe. If you are going to make your baked ziti with sausage; make sure to choose a mild or sweet Italian sausage for your baked ziti to help kick up the flavor of this dish. You can also add some pancetta to the recipe. However, if you love a simple meatless baked ziti recipe, you can easily make a vegetarian version by using spinach, red peppers, and ricotta for the filling.
I used fresh onions, and garlic to create a flavorful base for this baked ziti recipe. I also seasoned it with black pepper, smoked paprika, kosher salt, and chili flakes. These simple seasonings give the dish a slight kick of heat and a nice balance of flavor that rounds out the taste profile perfectly without adding too much complexity. Another common choice is the traditional Italian seasoning, which includes oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper flakes. You can try using Italian seasoning too in this recipe, as it is a good option too.
How to make baked ziti with ricotta cheese and ground beef
375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees C).
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat; add chopped onion and cook for 4 minutes or until fragrant, add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Add ground beef and, break up the larger chunks of meat with a spatula and keep cooking until the meat is nice and brown and is no longer pink.
Stir in tomato paste, and marinara sauce; season it with black pepper, paprika, and salt, and stir to combine. The sauce will appear thick at this stage, add beef stock and mix to loosen it up, turn the heat down to low, and continue to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until it thickens up. You can stir the sauce occasionally to prevent it from burning.
While the meat is simmering, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add 1 tsp of salt, 1 tbsp olive oil, and ziti pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions (7 to 8 minutes) or until al dente. Once it is done, drain and set aside.
Add 1/4 tsp of chili flakes to the sauce and garnish it with chopped basil, stir and remove from heat. Spread about 2 heaping spoons of the meat sauce in the bottom of your baking dish and spread it out evenly.
Spread about 2 heaping spoons of the meat sauce in the bottom of your baking dish and spread it out evenly.
Stir in 1 cup of ricotta cheese into the remaining meat sauce and lightly mix to incorporate. Add the drained pasta and mix until well combined with the meat mixture. Just so that you know; you can still make your baked ziti without ricotta cheese.
Pour the pasta and the meat mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of grated parmesan and cheese,1/2 part of mozzarella cheese. Spread it out evenly to cover the pasta nicely.
Follow with another layer of pasta and meat sauce over the top to form a second layer. Sprinkle the remaining1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and another 1/2 part of the mozzarella cheese over the top.
Pop it into the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly on top.
Let the baked ziti stand for 5 minutes. Garnish with chopped basil or parsley before serving.
Baked ziti with ricotta cheese: what to serve with it
There are many things to serve with baked ziti. Some classic side dishes include a simple green salad, vibrant coleslaw, and garlic bread or some steamed vegetables would be a perfect complement. If you want to keep it really simple, just some crusty bread and a glass of red wine are all you need. Since baked ziti is usually fairly cheesy and rich, you don’t want to choose a wine that is too tannic or acidic.
One thing to keep in mind when choosing what to serve with baked ziti with ground beef is that the dish is already quite hearty on its own, so you don’t need to overwhelm it with a heavy side.
Is baked ziti with ground beef and ricotta the same as lasagna?
Lasagna and baked ziti are both Italian pasta dishes that are layered with cheeses and ground meat. However, there are some key differences between the two dishes. For one, lasagna is typically made with wider, flat sheet pasta which is layered with red or bechamel sauce or sometimes with a mixture of both sauces, while baked ziti is made with short tubular noodles. Both dishes are delicious, but they are not the same.
Should baked ziti be baked covered or uncovered?
I personally prefer to make baked ziti uncovered, so that the cheese can get nice and bubbly. However, if you bake your ziti covered, the ziti will be softer and moister, since it’s steamy in the covered pan but you won’t get that nice crispy top that you would if it was baked uncovered. Also, it takes longer to bake since you have to cook it covered.
Why do you put an egg in ricotta cheese for baked ziti?
It is not compulsory to mix egg with ricotta cheese for baked ziti. However, many recipes call for it because the egg creates a custard-like mixture that helps to bind the other ingredients together. The egg also helps to create a fluffy texture. If you are not using egg, be sure to add extra moisture to the dish in another form, such as by adding more tomato sauce or using higher-fat ricotta cheese and more mozzarella cheese to help hold up everything together nicely.
Does baked ziti contain meat?
This classic Italian pasta dish is often made with or without meat. While the authentic baked ziti recipes do call for ground beef, you can easily make yours with Italian sausage, ground pork, or ground chicken or turkey.
Also, you can make a delicious vegetarian version of this dish without adding meat of any sort; simply substitute the beef for mushrooms, eggplants, or another type of vegetable. If you’re looking for a hearty, meaty version of baked ziti, you can add ground beef, sausage, or both to the sauce.
Do you boil ziti before baking
Boiling the ziti noodles makes them more tender and gives the sauce a chance to penetrate them better while baking. Be sure not to overcook the noodles. You can cook them for less time than the package directions indicate as they will continue to cook while it bakes.
If you decide not to boil your pasta in water before baking, you can also cook the dry pasta in the sauce. The only thing to keep in mind is that You will need more time for the pasta to cook through, also you’ll need to use more sauce than usual since the pasta will absorb some of it as it cooks.
Why is my baked ziti dry?
There are a few reasons why your baked ziti might come out dry. One reason could be that you’re not using enough sauce. Be sure to coat the pasta with enough sauce before baking it in the hot oven.
Another possibility is that you’re overcooking the ziti. Be sure to follow the recipe instructions and bake the ziti until the cheese melts and is bubbly on top. Finally, make sure you’re using fresh mozzarella cheese. It will melt better and add moisture to the dish.
How long to cook baked ziti with ground beef
Cooking time for baked ziti will vary depending on the recipe, but most recipes typically call for 20 to 35 minutes of baking time. Baked ziti is done when the pasta is cooked through and the sauce and cheese are hot and bubbly.
I personally like to cook baked ziti at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190oC) for 25 minutes. This moderate temperature allows the pasta to cook through properly while also ensuring that the sauce remains moist and the cheese melts and forms a delicious, bubbly topping.
However, if you prefer a softer baked pasta, you can reduce the temperature and cook your ziti at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (1770C) for 30 minutes. If your ziti is not quite brown after 25 minutes at these temperatures, you can broil it for the last 5 minutes of baking.
Also, if you are short on time you may want to bake it using a higher temperature of 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Make sure to adjust the temperature according to your own preferences and keep an eye on the dish while it cooks to ensure it doesn’t burn.
What can I substitute for ricotta cheese in baked ziti?
There are a few different types of cheese that can be used as a substitute for ricotta in baked ziti. These include cottage cheese, cream cheese, mascarpone, greek yogurt, and even sour cream. Cottage cheese has a similar texture to ricotta and can be used as a substitution. Cream cheese is also similar in texture, but has a slightly sweeter flavor.
Mascarpone has a richer flavor and is denser than ricotta, so it should be used sparingly. If you’re looking for a non-dairy option, tofu can also be used as a ricotta substitute. Tofu has a very mild flavor and can be easily blended to create a ricotta-like consistency for your baked ziti recipe. Also, greek yogurt can be used as a healthier alternative to ricotta.
Baked Ziti with Ricotta Cheese and Ground Beef
- 1.7qt oval casserole dish
- 6 ounces ziti pasta, (4 cups) or any short pasta e
- 1 pound ground beef, pork, or Italian sausage
- 1 jar marinara sauce (24 ounces) any of your favorite tomato-based sauce
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1½ cups grated mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- ½ cup chopped red onions
- 3 minced minced garlic cloves
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp red chili flakes
- 1½ salt 1 tsp of salt divided
- 2 tbsp basil or parsley for garnish l
- ½ cup beef stock
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oi
- 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees C).
- In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook for 4 minutes or until fragrant, add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. .
- Add ground beef, break up the larger chunks of meat with a spatula and keep cooking until the meat is nice and brown and is no longer pink.
- Stir in tomato paste, and marinara sauce, and season it with black pepper, smoked paprika, and salt; stir to combine. The sauce will appear thick at this stage, add beef stock and mix to loosen it up, turn the heat down to low, and continue to simmer for 10 to15 minutes until it thickens up. You can stir the sauce occasionally to prevent it from burning.
- While the meat is simmering, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add 1 tsp of salt,1 tablespoon of olive oil, and ziti pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions (7 to 8 minutes) or until al dente. Once it is done, drain and set aside.
- Add 1/4 tsp of chili flakes to the sauce and garnish it with chopped basil, stir and remove from heat. Spread about 2 heaping spoons of the meat sauce in the bottom of your baking dish and spread it out evenly.
- Scoop about 2 heaping spoons of the meat sauce in the bottom of your baking dish and spread it out evenly.
- Stir in 1 cup of ricotta cheese into the remaining meat sauce and lightly mix to incorporate. Add the drained pasta and mix until well combined with the meat mixture.
- Pour the pasta and the meat mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of grated parmesan and cheese,1/2 part of mozzarella cheese. Spread it out evenly to cover the pasta.
- Follow with another layer of pasta and meat sauce over the top to form a second layer. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 part of the mozzarella cheese and another 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese over the top.
- Pop it into the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly on top.
- Let the baked ziti stand for 5 minutes. Garnish with chopped basil or parsley before serving.
Storage of baked ziti made with ricotta cheese and ground beefMake-ahead– Baked ziti is a great option if you’re looking for a make-ahead meal. This baked pasta dish can be assembled ahead of time and stored in the fridge for up to four days and then baked when you’re ready to eat it. Freezing baked ziti– to freeze baked ziti, let it cool completely before freezing. Cut into individual servings or freeze the entire pan. Wrap each serving (or the entire pan) tightly in freezer-safe wrap or foil. Label and date the freezer bags or containers and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw the frozen ziti in the refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Bake covered with foil for about 20 minutes, or until heated through. you can also warm it in the microwave for 2 minutes. Freezing unbaked ziti– Assemble the dish according to the recipe instructions. Cover the unbaked casserole dish tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Label the baking dish with the name and date of the recipe. Freeze the unbaked ziti for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to eat, thaw the ziti in the refrigerator overnight and bake in preheated oven at 350 for 40 with the foil cover until cooked through, remove foil and broil for 5 minutes until slightly golden and bubbly on top. Unbaked ziti will need a few extra minutes in the oven to cook through since it’s starting from cold, so keep an eye on it and add 5-10 minutes to the baking time as needed. Refrigerating– you can store baked ziti in the fridge. To do so, place the ziti in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. When you’re ready to reheat the ziti, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the ziti for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it’s heated through.
Other variations of baked ziti with ricotta and ground beefThere are many other variations of baked ziti out there. Some recipes call for different types of pasta, such as penne or shells however, you can also change the pasta shape to suit your preference.
- Some popular variations include:
- Baked ziti with sausage- This version includes Italian sausage in the filling for an extra flavorful dish.
- Baked ziti with no ricotta- This variation does not include ricotta cheese in the filling.
- Baked ziti with vegetables-This variation includes vegetables in the filling, such as spinach, kale, or mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and sun-dried tomatoes.
- Alfredo baked ziti-This variation includes alfredo sauce in the recipe, for a creamy and delicious dish.
- Also, you can make a seafood baked ziti by adding shrimp, crab meat, or both to the sauce. There are also many ways to change up the cheese in baked ziti,
- You can make a vegetarian baked ziti by substituting meat for vegetables. As long as you have the basic ingredients of pasta, sauce, and cheese, the possibilities are endless!
This easy-baked ziti with ground beef is a delicious dish made with pasta, tomato sauce, and cheese. This is the perfect baked ziti recipe for feeding a crowd! It’s hearty and filling, and can easily be doubled or tripled to make enough for a large group of people. Plus, it’s always a hit with both kids and adults.
I like to make this dish ahead of time and then bake it just before serving. That way, I can relax and enjoy my guests without having to worry about last-minute cooking. Why not give this recipe a try, you will be glad you did!