Easy Baked Ziti Recipe
This easy baked ziti recipe is on the table fast and feeds a crowd, made with ziti noodles, melty mozzarella cheese, and loads of Italian sausage. A perfect midweek dinner for the family.
“What’s for Dinner?” Isn’t that the question of the evening? How about pasta? Everyone loves a good pasta dish. This is an adaptation of a particular dish that Patty’s family grew up eating.
Come to think of it, we ate a lot of baked pasta dishes, too, growing up, so these types of meals always spark a touch of nostalgia, sitting around the dinner table.
It’s Easy Baked Ziti, my friends! And it’s wonderful!
You may have enjoyed your mother’s baked ziti recipe growing up, or your grandmother’s. This is a super simple dish with a couple of small twists, one that I personally love.
It’s a huge pan that will feed your whole family, or will feed a smaller group and you can save the rest for later in the week. It’s a perfect leftover meal and keeps nicely.
This is the way I like to make mine, with a creamy bechamel to thicken the sauce and with lots of spicy Italian sausage. Perfect for the spicy food lover. So let’s get cooking!
Let’s make some easy baked ziti.
Baked Ziti Ingredient Needed
- Italian Sausage. I love hot Italian sausage for this, but you can use mild.
- Olive Oil. For cooking.
- Vegetables. Use jalapeno pepper (or bell pepper for milder), onion, garlic, and crushed tomatoes.
- Seasonings. Fresh basil and salt and pepper. Also, chili powder, if desired, and a simple Italian seasoning blend.
- Bechamel. You’ll need butter, flour and milk.
- Ziti Noodles.
- Cheeses. Use Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheeses. Ricotta cheese is popular as well.
How to make Bakes Ziti – the Recipe Method
Prepare the Italian Sausage. First things first – cook up the Italian sausages according to the instructions on the packaging. I did them up in a pan on the stove to make it quick and easy. When they are cooked through, cool them a bit and slice them into 1/2 inch slices.
Get the Baked Ziti Sauce Going. While the sausages are cooking, cook down the onion and jalapeno pepper in oil a few minutes, then add in the garlic to cook another minute or so. You should start to smell the fragrant garlic.
Add the tomatoes, fresh basil and salt and pepper to your liking. Give it all a stir. Bring up the heat to start a boil, but then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes or so to thicken up. You can simmer longer if you’d like.
If it gets TOO thick, just add a couple tablespoons of water and stir.
Make the Bechamel. While your sauce is simmering along, you’ll make a Bechamel Sauce, which is one of the French mother sauces, but really, it’s just a roux (or paste of flour and butter) mixed with milk. The process is easy.
Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat and whisk in the flour. It will form a thick paste. Slowly whisk in the milk and continue to whisk it over the heat. It will eventually thicken up into a thick sauce.
If it feels too thick for you, whisk in a bit more milk to achieve the consistency you’d like. When it’s done, take it off the heat and stir in the chili powder.
Prepare the Ziti Noodles. Get your ziti noodles cooking as well, which is easy enough, simply boiling them in salted water. You can cook them to al dente, or stop the process a bit before they are completely cooked, as they will cook a bit more in the baking process. Drain the pasta.
Assemble and Bake the Ziti. Stir it all together in a baking dish or casserole dish – the cooked noodles, tomato sauce, Bechamel sauce, cooked sausages or meat sauce – along with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, then top it all with mozzarella and bake it up for 15 to 20 minutes, and up to 30 minutes until the cheese is nicely melted and everything it heated through.
I mean, look at this. Don’t you want to just dig right in?
Garnish he Baked Ziti. Top it all off with chopped basil for garnish and chow down! I like some spicy red pepper flakes. If there is any remaining mozzarella or Parmesan cheese, add it as well.
It makes a big batch here, so go crazy, but if you have leftovers, you can easily save it in containers and enjoy it in a couple days. Bonus meal!
It is jam packed with satisfying sausage, and the finished sauce is crazy delicious. The Bechamel brings in a creaminess you don’t get with your typical tomato sauce. I say bring it on!
That’s it, my friends! BOOM! Done! I hope you enjoy the meal. Baked ziti is ready to serve. Easy enough to make, isn’t it? So good with extra Italian sausage. Spicy Italian sausage for me, please. You know I love it spicy.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- The Meats. You can make this with other meats, like ground beef or ground turkey, Polish sausages, turkey sausages, chopped chicken or others. Skip the meat for a tasty vegetarian meal. I think this would be great with firm tofu.
- The Cheeses. I use a lot of Parmesan cheese and melty mozzarella cheese for this recipe, but ricotta cheese is a popular addition for it’s creaminess.
- The Noodles. The dish is called Easy Baked Ziti, but honestly, you can pretty easily make this with other noodles, like penne or cavatappi.
- The Sauce. Sometimes I like make a double batch of this sauce and save the remaining sauce for another day. It freezes up nicely and perfect for other pasta meals.
Try Some of My Other Popular Dishes
- Shrimp Fra Diavolo
- Spicy Penne Arrabbiata
- Rasta Pasta
- Spicy Italian Meatballs
- Italian Stuffed Peppers
- Italian Giardiniera
- Sausage and Peppers
- Pepper and Egg Sandwich
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Easy Baked Ziti Recipe with Italian Sausage
- 1 Hot Italian Sausages 19 ounces, 5 links (I use hot Italian sausage)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 jalapeno pepper chopped
- 1 medium white onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil + more for garnish
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings (or more to taste)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoon flour
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon chili powder (use paprika or cayenne for spicier - optional)
- 16 ounce package mini ziti
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese + more for serving
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese cubed or shredded
- Cook the Italian Sausages according to the instructions on the packaging. Cool, then slice them into 1/2 inch slices. Set aside.
- While sausages are cooking, heat oil in a pot over medium heat and add jalapeno and onion. Cook for 5 minutes to soften.
- Add garlic and cook another minute, stirring.
- Add crushed tomatoes, fresh basil, Italian seasonings and salt and pepper. Bring to a quick boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Get a pot of water boiling for the ziti noodles and add a generous pinch of salt.
- Next, melt butter in a medium sized pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to form a roux, or butter/flour paste. Cook, stirring, about 5 minutes to darken slightly. Whisk in milk and continue whisking over medium heat until it thickens up, about 5 minutes. This is a bechamel sauce. Remove from heat and stir in chili powder (if using).
- Add the ziti noodles to the boiling salted water and cook according to the package directions, until al dente. For firmer noodles, stop cooking them a couple minutes before they finish, as they will cook more as we bake them.
- To a large baking dish, add the cooked noodles, tomato sauce, bechamel sauce, sliced sausages and Parmesan cheese. Mix well.
- Top with mozarrella cheese and bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is nicely melted.
- Top with fresh chopped basil and extra Parmesan cheese. Serve!