Easy Baked Ziti with Spinach

Quick and easy baked ziti recipe with fresh spinach, artichokes, and a creamy pesto layer. Jump to the Easy Baked Ziti Recipe or read on to see our tips for making it.

Easy Baked Ziti Recipe with Spinach, Artichokes, and Pesto

If there’s one thing that will instantly make our knees buckle, it’s baked ziti. Just the thought of it makes us gasp. This easy version starts with pasta tossed with marinara sauce. We add lots of fresh spinach and a whole jar of quartered artichokes. Then we sneak a layer of sour cream mixed with pesto in the middle. It’s ridiculously good!

Baked Ziti with Shrimp and SpinachYOU MAY ALSO LIKE: This Baked Ziti Recipe with Shrimp and Spinach. It’s a little lighter and has perfectly cooked shrimp, feta cheese, and a light marinara sauce.

How to Make Seriously Good Baked Ziti with Spinach, Artichokes, and a Creamy Pesto Layer

This recipes comes together fast. Let me show you how to make it.

How to Make Seriously Good Baked Ziti with Spinach, Artichokes, and a Creamy Pesto Layer

Start by cooking your pasta, but undercook it by 1 to 2 minutes. This way, when we toss it with the marinara sauce and bake so the cheese melts and browns, the pasta won’t become mushy. Once cooked, drain the pasta, but reserve some of the hot pasta water for later. Then toss the pasta into a big bowl with marinara sauce, fresh spinach, and the artichokes. For the artichokes, we use canned artichokes that have been drained.

You’ll notice that the spinach will begin to wilt from the heat of the pasta, but to wilt it down even more and to create a sauce, pour in some of the reserved pasta water.

Add reserved pasta water to the ziti mixture to make the sauce.

Spoon about half of the ziti, spinach, and artichokes into a baking dish then add a layer of creamy pesto. To make it, we stir sour cream and pesto together (it’s so good).

Add a creamy pesto layer to the middle of the ziti.

Add some mozzarella cheese then top with the rest of the ziti, spinach, and artichokes. Finish the top with more mozzarella then bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has melted. We love this meatless, vegetarian inspired ziti and hope you will too.

Easy Baked Ziti with Spinach and Artichokes

Baked Stuffed Shells with Sausage and SpinachYOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Our popular recipe for Stuffed Shells with Sausage and Spinach. Pasta shells are filled with a mixture of sausage, spinach and ricotta cheese. Delicious!

Recipe updated, originally posted October 2012. Since posting this in 2012, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne

Easy Baked Ziti Recipe with Spinach

  • PREP
  • COOK
  • TOTAL

With about 15 minutes of hands-on time this easy baked ziti is perfect for busy nights. A layer of sour cream, pesto, and cheese is sandwiched in the middle of the ziti, making it extra good. If you do not have sour cream, substitute with cream cheese, cottage cheese, or ricotta cheese.

Makes approximately 8 servings

You Will Need

1 pound pasta, such as ziti, penne, or rigatoni

Salt

3 cups marinara sauce, see our homemade marinara sauce recipe (or substitute one 26-ounce jar store-bought sauce)

1/4 cup basil pesto, see our homemade basil pesto recipe

3/4 cup sour cream

6 ounces baby spinach

One 12-ounce jar artichokes, drained and roughly chopped

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated (about 1 cup)

Directions

  • Prepare Ziti
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

    Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the pasta then follow package directions, but cook 1 to 2 minutes less than the package calls for. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water then drain.

    Meanwhile, warm the marinara sauce in a saucepan over medium heat.

    In a small bowl, stir basil pesto and the sour cream together until well blended.

    Add the cooked pasta to a large bowl with the spinach, artichokes, warmed marinara, and the reserved pasta water. Toss until the spinach has wilted and everything is well combined.

    • To Finish
    • Spoon half of the pasta and spinach mixture into the baking dish. Spread the sour cream and pesto mixture over the pasta and scatter with half of the mozzarella cheese. Top with the remaining pasta, lightly press everything down into the baking dish, and then scatter remaining mozzarella cheese on top.

      Place the baking dish onto an aluminum-lined baking dish (just in case any sauce drips over the sides of the baking dish). Bake until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling; about 30 minutes. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

AUTHOR: Adam and Joanne Gallagher

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50 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Sonia December 28, 2016, 1:59 pm

    Can gluten free pasta be substituted without sacrificing taste? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Joanne January 4, 2017, 1:39 pm

      Hi Sonia, The taste should be very similar. We’ve noticed that when using gluten-free pasta, it is usually the texture of the pasta that is different.

      Reply
  • Patricia December 23, 2016, 5:37 pm

    I now know how to bake delicious banana bread thanks to you two wonderful, giving people. Thank you for sharing your expertise and thank you for the easy to follow instructions. My family, neighbours and friends enjoy your delicious banana bread and they always look forward to receiving the next loaf. 5 stars! Thank you for making so many people happy, Joanne and Adam!

    Reply
  • John Waye December 5, 2015, 4:09 pm

    Someone told me to add an egg if I substitute ricotta cheese. Is that necessary or better?

    Reply
    • Joanne December 22, 2015, 1:06 pm

      The egg will make form up the ricotta a bit. It isn’t necessary, but some people prefer the texture with the egg.

      Reply
  • Gail August 30, 2015, 12:48 pm

    I’ve made this dish countless times now and my hubby and I enjoy very much!! The only suggestion I have is to make sure to use marinated artichokes. We used plain ones once and it turned out kind of bland, so the marinated artichokes definitely add flavor to the dish. Love love love!

    Reply
  • MPaula April 11, 2015, 9:18 pm

    The only artichokes in a jar available to me are marinated, which seems to be correct per one of the comments, but they do not look like what you have pictured. Unfortunately this looks like my idea of a perfect comfort food, which means I will have to stock up on artichokes and pesto, although I do usually make pesto all summer and freeze for winter use.

    Reply
    • Joanne April 21, 2015, 1:06 pm

      We have seen artichokes in cans (usually in water), in jars (usually in oil) and sold in the frozen section. Any of these will work. Hope you love the ziti 🙂

      Reply
  • Simmone January 6, 2015, 7:49 pm

    This recipe sounds awesome BUT would I be able to substitute heavy cream for sour cream?

    Reply
    • Joanne January 8, 2015, 1:50 pm

      You could certainly try it, it should still taste great. The cream will just be thinner than if you were to use sour cream.

      Reply
  • Kate December 20, 2014, 10:59 pm

    Would it be possibly to put this ziti together in the morning, refrigerate it. and then bake it just before dinner?

    Reply
    • Joanne March 5, 2015, 10:31 am

      Yes, definitely.

      Reply
  • Brandy October 13, 2014, 3:51 pm

    I made this last night and it was very easy to prepare and was delicious! I chopped up the artichokes as suggested by another user; I love the flavor they add to the dish. Used a 13×9 pan and there was no need for a foil lined baking sheet underneath. I had all of the ingredients on hand, however, I like that you can easily swap out certain items if you don’t have them, or add others to your liking. Looking forward to trying out other recipes from this site!

    Reply
  • Mollie April 29, 2014, 8:35 pm

    My husband and I just made this for dinner – I would say the total cooking time is pretty accurate. While it was baking, I had time to put together salads and prep for packing leftovers for lunch.. and drink some wine! This recipe is delicious – I doubt I would’ve thought to mix pesto with sour cream for the middle layer. *yum*

    BUT….We changed some things to make it easier/create less dishes – we did not reserve any pasta water (the water from the uncooked spinach and other ingredients seemed like it would keep the pasta from drying out anyway), we used a large stock pot to boil pasta and returned the pasta back to the pot after it was drained for the spinach+sauce mixing (instead of using a “large bowl”), we did not preheat the sauce in any way (it was poured out of a room temperature jar), and we used a 13×9 glass baking dish and (luckily, because I forgot!) discovered there was no need for an aluminum-lined baking sheet.

    Reply
    • Joanne May 16, 2014, 12:08 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the recipe and thanks for your extra tips!

      Reply
  • Carol April 29, 2014, 8:33 pm

    Sounds really good. I was wondering about preparing the night before cooking it. I would not heat sauce but not sure if that would be recommended?

    Reply
    • Joanne May 16, 2014, 12:09 pm

      Preparing the night before should work fine.

      Reply
  • jesse March 23, 2014, 6:31 pm

    looks delicious! what kind of pesto sauce do use? Is there a certain brand or kind?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • Kameron January 6, 2014, 12:54 am

    Made this tonight. Also added asparagus and served with a side of roasted broccolini and heirloom tomatoes. It was a huge hit! Thank you!

    Reply
  • loren October 10, 2013, 2:58 pm

    Hi!!I just made this for lunch and it was delicious.My husband and I ate almost the whole thing by ourselves,lol!!
    I only changed the very top layer,I mixed some parmesan cheese and minced garlic with seasoned panko breadcrumbs and the mozzarella to give it an extra little crunch!
    The sauce I used was Amy’s Marinara and it came out fabulous.I served it with a regular lettuce-onion-tomato salad.

    The only thing I’m going to change is next time I’m going to use pre marinated artichokes because today I only had plain ones on hand and felt like they were a little bland…my bad.

    It was awesome.Thanks for a great recipe!It’s on my bookmarks now! 🙂

    Reply
  • Jackie August 12, 2013, 4:33 pm

    Hi

    Can you make a suggestion for a sub for artichokes.

    Reply
    • loren October 10, 2013, 2:58 pm

      you could use asparagus! 🙂

      Reply
  • Judy July 31, 2013, 9:19 pm

    Had leftover tomato sauce, artichokes, pesto and mozzerellla cheese from pizza night. Plugged those ingredients into google and this recipe popped up. Made it and added some pepperoni (which was also left over). It was fast, simple and delicious!

    Reply
    • Joanne August 8, 2013, 1:08 pm

      Sounds wonderful! Adding pepperoni is never a bad thing.

      Reply

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