There’s nothing we love more than a hearty casserole dinner that’s quick to make and is incredibly delicious. This baked ziti with ricotta makes for the best comfort meal your family will ask for on repeat. Baked pasta with ground beef in a flavorful marinara sauce is saucy and cheesy, just like our baked stuffed shells.
This baked pasta dish is made up of noodles layered with cheese and meat sauce, just like in our meaty spaghetti recipe. The cheesiness alone makes this dish incredible! Serve with buttery baked breadsticks, and dip them into that delicious sauce!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Make ahead. This dish can be assembled and stored in the fridge until you can bake it!
- Simple ingredients. This recipe requires just a few ingredients, most of which are staple products you may already have.
- Great leftovers. If you have any leftovers, this dish is easy to reheat and enjoy the next day.
Ingredients for Baked Ziti with Ricotta
- Ziti pasta – a long tubular pasta shape allows the sauce and beef to absorb into every corner. You can also use penne or rigatoni.
- Ground beef – lean ground beef is best for this recipe.
- Tomato sauce – a combination of marinara sauce and crushed tomatoes.
- Cheese – a mix of ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese.
See the recipe card below for a complete list of ingredients and quantities.
Substitutions and Variations
- Protein: Swap out the ground beef for your favorite choice of meat. Some great options include ground chicken, ground turkey, Italian sausage, and even ground pork!
- Vegetables: Make this dish more nutritious by adding chopped carrots to the sauce, or even sauté some finely chopped mushrooms, zucchini, and bell peppers!
- Sauce: If you aren’t the biggest fan of marinara sauce, you can recreate this dish using homemade alfredo sauce!
Expert Tip for the Perfect Pasta:
Boil the pasta to al dente as it will continue cooking in the oven.
How to Make Baked Ziti
Step-by-step instructions on this easy, oven-baked ziti:
1 – Add the beef and chopped onion to a large, large hot pan, and break up the meat as it cooks.
2 – Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant-season meat with salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings.
3 – Add marinara sauce and crushed tomatoes, and bring to a light simmer.
4 – Stir in cooked pasta until everything is well combined.
5 – Put into a casserole dish, and add in half the pasta mixture. Top with a layer of all cheese.
6 – Top with remaining pasta and finish with a layer of cheese. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake in the oven at 350°F for 20-25 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.
Elevate Your Dish!!
- Fresh Herbs: Infuse the marina sauce by adding fresh basil or thyme to give your dish some delicious flavors.
- Cheese it up! Add an extra layer of cheese to the top and broil on high for a few minutes after baking to get a crispy, cheesy crust!
- Restaurant style: Start with an appetizer of buttery homemade breadsticks and some classic zuppa toscana to make this baked ziti a restaurant-level dinner.
- Salad: Pair this pasta dish with a classic Caesar salad for a flavorful meal.
- Dessert: The Italian-inspired entree deserves an iconic dessert. Our favorites include our easy mascarpone tiramisu or a delicious crème brûlée.
Yes, you can use 80/20 beef in place of lean ground beef. You will need to drain the excess fat when the meat is cooking.
Skip out on the ricotta and substitute with additional cheese of your choice or use cream cheese.
Use any of your favorite combination of cheeses! Some other great options are cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack, and provolone!
Store & Reheat
- Storage. Store leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, or Tupperware for up to 3 days.
- Reheat: Warm leftovers in the microwave or the oven at a low temperature.
- Freeze. Assemble the ziti in a freezer-safe casserole dish and let it cool before freezing. Store for up to 2 months. Reheat: Thaw in the fridge overnight and bake as usual.
Expert Tip for Meal Prep:
Assemble the ziti in a casserole dish the morning before dinner and refrigerate. Then pop into the oven right before dinner for a less hectic prep!
More Pasta Recipes
If you tried this Baked Ziti with Ricotta Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please leave a star rating and let me know how it went in the comments below – we appreciate it!
Baked Ziti Recipe (with Ricotta)
- 1 lb ziti pasta
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tsp italian seasoning
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 32 oz marinara sauce
- 14.5 oz crushed tomatoes
- 16 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded shredded
- 15 oz ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- Cook the pasta al dente according to package instructions.
- Add ground beef and onion into a large skillet. Over medium-high heat, brown meat, breaking it up as it cooks.
- Once the meat is mostly cooked, add garlic and seasoning.
- Add the marinara sauce and crushed tomatoes. Bring to a light simmer, and then add in the pasta.
- Into a 9×13 casserole dish, pour a layer of the pasta mixture. Add half the ricotta in an even layer. Then sprinkle half of the mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
- Add the remaining pasta and finish with a layer of the remaining cheese.
- Cover with foil and bake in the oven at 350°F for 20-25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese bubbles.
- Serve, and enjoy friends!
- Pasta: Boil pasta to Al dente for the best texture.
- Refrigerate: Store leftovers for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
- Freeze: Assemble the pasta in a freezer-safe dish, and don’t bake. Freeze and store for up to 2 months. When you are ready to cook, thaw overnight in the fridge and bake as usual.