Best-Ever Baked Ziti

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I know it’s quite a claim to call this Best-Ever Baked Ziti recipe the best ever, but wait until you try this Best-Ever Baked Ziti.   One bite, and we’re pretty sure you’ll agree.

This truly is the Best-Ever Baked Ziti recipe!!

Though the history of baked ziti goes back for generations and generations, this recipe delivers that authentic Italian taste the we all love so much!

Best-Ever Baked Ziti recipe

Watch us show you how to make what we believe truly is the Best-Ever Baked Ziti!

You can do it! Watch, laugh…and get ready to make the Best-Ever Baked Ziti recipe!

Of course, the sum of this dish is greater than it’s parts.   But…the parts are pretty amazing, too.  And that starts with a robust, deeply flavorful meat sauce.  You can easily make the marinara sauce several days in advance.

In fact, you can make it weeks in advance because it freezes beautifully!  Mmmmm…meat sauce.

Best-Ever Baked Ziti

Using top quality ingredients is key to making this the best-ever baked ziti recipe, as well.  Seek out top-quality ricotta cheese and mozzarella.

We just can’t stress this enough.  This dish serves a nice-sized gathering of friends and family. 

We love to serve this with our Classic Caesar Salad and our Fantastic Focaccia with Rosemary and Olive Oil.

Best-Ever Baked Ziti recipe


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But folks, in the meantime, check out this incredible baked ziti!

best-ever baked ziti recipe

Give this dish the kind of love you would your best friends and closest relatives, and the love it gives you back in return will make your heart sing!

Ah…this incredible dish really is simply the BEST!  

EXPERT TIP: You can make the meat sauce up to 1 week in advance.  You can assemble the dish up to 2 days in advance.  Bring to room temperature before baking, or just add an additional 15 minutes if chilled, and an additional 40 minutes if frozen!

Best-ever baked ziti recipe

Now, make this Best-Ever Baked Zite recipe!  You can make this up to 2 weeks in advance and freeze.  Let thaw before baking.


A spoonful of Best-Ever Baked Ziti

Best-Ever Baked Ziti

This Best-Ever Baked Ziti recipe really is the best ever. Go with quality ingredients and be sure to make the marinara from scratch, and you won't believe the results. This meat sauce can be made a day in advance and kept in the fridge or freeze up to 2 weeks. The dish can also be made a day in advance and kept in the fridge or freeze for up to 2 weeks. Just let thaw before baking. This is one to serve to people you really love and want to make them happy.
5 from 10 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Baked Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Italian-American, Ziti
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 525kcal




  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 celery stalks chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 large carrot peeled and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage casings removed
  • 1/2 lb hot Italian sausage casings removed
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 5 cups fresh marinara sauce click for recipe
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste


  • 16 oz quality ricotta cheese
  • 16 oz quality mozzarella cheese shredded
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese finely shredded
  • 1 lb dried ziti
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped



  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  • Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook until soft, about 7 - 10 minutes.
  • Crumble the sausage with your hands into the pot and then add the beef. Cook until almost no longer pink.
  • Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, each.
  • At this point, if too much grease has rendered, you can drain it off.
  • Add the wine and cook until liquid is almost all gone, about 4 - 5 minutes.
  • Add the prepared marinara and tomato paste and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Set aside until ready to assemble dish.


  • Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Cook the ziti according to package instructions for al dente. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large baking dish (a lasagna dish/pan works well), ladle a thin layer of the meat sauce on the bottom of the dish.
  • Add a layer of cooked ziti.
  • Top with dollops of ricotta and then about 3/4 cup of mozzarella.
  • Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of Parmesan on top of that.
  • Repeat this process again.
  • Top with a handful of pasta, then another layer of the sauce, a 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, and another 1/4 of Parmesan on top.
  • Baked, uncovered, for 45 to 50 minutes, until lightly browned on top and bubbly.
  • Garnish with chopped parsley.


NOTE: The cook time does NOT include the preparing the marinara sauce.  We recommend you make this in advance.  It freezes beautifully.  Also, the marinara recipe makes more sauce than you may end up using for this ziti recipe.  Keep it on hand for plenty of other amazing uses!


Calories: 525kcal
Tried this recipe? Take a Picture!Mention @HowToFeedALoon or tag #HowToFeedALoon!


  • 5 stars
    You added milk? Don’t see that. I didn’t. Everything ready, waiting for pasta to cook. Let you know if the completed project is as wonderful as the marinara and meat sauce. Love that the marinara recipe size is good for second casserole.
    Keep thinking about milk.

    • 5 stars
      Oh my! Great flavor. Next time I’m going to check at 40 minutes for my oven. At 45 minutes it’s a delicious chew in the corners. Truly a scrumptious ziti.

    • 5 stars
      I am anxious to try this recipe, but for me 2 lbs of meat for 6 servings is too much. I will reduce the meat by half. If this sounds like it will be a failure, please say so.

      • Hi Patti!

        Sorry for the delayed response! It’s definitely 6 large servings. You can reduce the meat to 1 lb, no problem. Let us know how it turns out and what you think!

      • 5 stars
        I put this together in 2 smaller casseroles and froze one. I had a few noodles and a tiny bit of sauce leftover and thought, “What would Wesley do?” Yep, one by one I scooped some sauce onto a few noodles. That alone was fantastic! As always, this recipe was amazing!!! No recipe ever disappoints!!! Thanks Kris! XOXOXO to both of you and the pups!!!

      • Claire!! That sounds absolutely perfect! Do as Wesley would do and you’ll usually be just fine (usually…LOL!). We are so happy you loved the baked ziti and thank you so so much for letting us know and for the wonderful review. That honestly means so much to us!!! xoxoxo Kris, Wesley, Ebenezer, and Florence (Eb and Flo).

  • I am thinking about making this to take to a Thanksgiving gathering. Usually I make macaroni and cheese, but was considering doing something different this year. What are the dimensions of the “large baking dish?”

    • Hi Chris, any dish ranging from 9×13 or a size larger will work. As Joe mentioned, a little extra depth is nice to have. There’s really not a science to this dish, regarding layering. We just layer the pasta, cheese, and sauce until the dish is filled then add another layer of shredded mozzarella on top. Depending on the size of your dish, you may have a little extra pasta or sauce, which is great to have on the side! Hope this helps and Happy Thanksgiving!

      • 5 stars
        Thank you. So far, so good. I made the marinara this evening and plan to make the meat sauce tomorrow evening. Then, I will put everything together and probably bake it Thanksgiving morning. Thank you for sharing the recipe! Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

  • I made your recipe tonight for Best-Ever Baked Ziti. It was outstanding!!! Seriously the best I have ever made, I did make my own sauce but made this exactly as your recipe. For sure will be making this many more times. Thank You, Carol

    • Carol! That’s so awesome to hear! We love baked ziti, it’s so comforting and yummy. And so glad you made the sauce! We think it’s what makes the ziti so special. And thank you so much for letting us know and for the great review! We always appreciate that so very, very much! All the best!!! Kris & Wesley

    • It should be a lasagna pan. 9×13 is large enough, but it needs to be at least 3 inches deep. Most 9×13 pans are only 2 inches deep. The depth is more important than the other dimensions. Since I don’t have a lasagna pan, I use three 9×4 loaf pans. That gives me the depth, and I can freeze some for later.

  • 5 stars
    My whole family loved your Best ever Ziti bake recipe. I substitute the ground beef for ground turkey.

    P. S. You both are so cute!

    • Hi Renée! That is so wonderful to hear!! That’s a big win pleasing the whole family and we are so very happy you all enjoyed the recipe! That is a family favorite in our house, for sure!! (Making a big batch tonight for an extended family getaway this weekend, in fact!). And thank you so much for letting us know. That means so very much to us!! Please stay in touch!! All the best, Kris & Wesley

    • 5 stars
      Hi My name is Maureen and Love this recipe!being Italian this recipe is the best way to make baked ziti! Ty for sharing it!!

  • 5 stars
    I love to cook and combed the Internet for a really good ziti recipe and stumbled onto your site. First of all, your video is hilarious. The ingredient list had my mouth watering and The marinara sauce IS to die for. I made it for Super Bowl Sunday and it truly is the best ever baked ziti and I will never try any other recipe. Can’t wait to make it again and try some of your other dishes. I love it when a recipe does not disappoint! Wish you both continued success in the culinary world!

    • Hi Nancy!! Thank you for making our day, weekend…heck, our month!! We are SO thrilled that you had success with the baked ziti! We absolutely love it, too, and it’s always so great to serve to a gathering of loved ones!! And thank you so very much for taking the time to let us know. That means the world to us. Please stay in touch!!! All the best, Kris & Wesley

  • I’m trying this recipe for the men and women working at our local fire department on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day(including my son-in-law)! So far it smells delicious! I will let you know their response!!

    • Hi Katie!! So sorry for the delayed response!! We are so glad you made this ziti. It’s one of our all-time favorite dishes. How did it turn out? Hope you all enjoyed it!! Best, Kris & Wesley

  • Ha. This recipe is delicious, but it doesn’t say where to add the ricotta, so I forgot. I bet it would be even better with it!

  • I’m looking forward to trying this recipe! Can you substitute with Ground Turkey and Turkey sausages?

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