Our easy baked ziti with spinach and artichokes only requires about 15 minutes of hands-on time. We add a creamy layer of sour cream, pesto, and cheese to the middle of the ziti, making the pasta utterly delicious. Jump to the Easy Baked Ziti Recipe or read on to see our tips for making it.
Not Your Typical Baked Ziti
If there’s one dish that will instantly make our knees buckle, it’s baked ziti. Just the thought of it makes us gasp. I’ll take baked pasta anyway I can get it, but this vegetarian version is loaded with spinach and artichokes as well as an ultra-creamy and cheesy layer of sour cream, pesto, and cheese. It’s ridiculously good!
How To Make The Best Baked Ziti
This baked ziti recipe comes together fast. Let me show you how I make it:
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, the pasta won’t become mushy.
When the pasta is cooked, I drain it, but save some of the hot pasta water for later. The starchy pasta water helps to make the sauce stick to the pasta when it bakes in the oven.
From there, I toss the pasta into a big bowl with marinara sauce (homemade or store-bought), fresh spinach, and the artichokes. For the artichokes, I use canned that have been drained.
As you toss the ziti ingredients in the bowl, you will notice that the spinach will begin to wilt from the heat of the pasta. It will seem like a lot of spinach at first, but as it wilts, it becomes more reasonable.
When everything is tossed together, spoon about half of the pasta, spinach, and artichokes into a baking dish then add a layer of creamy pesto.
The creamy pesto layer is my favorite part of this baked ziti recipe. It’s such a treat and really simple to make. To make it, I stir sour cream and pesto together. Cottage cheese, ricotta, and cream cheese are all excellent substitutes.
In addition to the pesto layer, I add some mozzarella cheese then top with the rest of the pasta, spinach, and artichokes.
So that the baked pasta is extra cheesy, I add more mozzarella on top, and then bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has melted.
Make Ahead and Storing Tips
Baked ziti is the perfect make-ahead meal. Here’s how I do it:
You can refrigerate the pasta unbaked. Cover and refrigerate the assembled, but unbaked pasta up to 2 days. When you cover, use parchment paper between the pasta and aluminum foil. Aluminum foil can react with the tomatoes.
Baked ziti also freezes well. Let it cool completely on a rack before freezing, and then wrap it very well with foil (we use two layers). Defrost the frozen pasta overnight in the refrigerator and then bake at 400°F for about 1 hour. (I prefer baking and then freezing the pasta instead of freezing uncooked pasta dishes.)
More Baked Pasta Recipes
- Another vegetarian pasta, this Easy Vegetable Baked Pasta has onions, bell pepper, and mushrooms.
- When the craving hits, I love making our Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese. It’s extra cheesy!
- No-boil lasagna sheets make our Healthier Spinach and Mushroom Lasagnaextra easy!
- For a meaty pasta, try our popular Lasagna with Beef and Sausage.
Recipe updated, originally posted October 2012. Since posting this in 2012, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne
Spinach and Artichoke Baked Ziti
Baked ziti with spinach and artichokes only requires about 15 minutes of hands-on time. A layer of sour cream, pesto, and cheese is sandwiched in the middle of the ziti, making it extra delicious. If you do not have sour cream, substitute with cream cheese, cottage cheese, or ricotta cheese.
You Will Need
1 pound dry pasta like ziti, penne, or rigatoni
Salt, to taste
3 cups marinara sauce or use 1 (28-ounce) jar store-bought sauce
1/4 cup basil pesto, see our pesto recipe
3/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
10 ounces fresh baby spinach
1 cup canned or jarred and drained artichoke hearts, chopped
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated (about 1 cup)
- Prepare Ziti
1Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2Bring 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.
3While the pasta cooks, warm the marinara sauce in a saucepan over medium heat.
4In a small bowl, stir basil pesto and the sour cream together until well blended.
5Add 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
1Spoon half of the pasta into the baking dish. Spread the sour cream and pesto mixture over the pasta and scatter with half of the mozzarella cheese.
2Top with the remaining pasta, lightly press everything down into the baking dish, and then scatter remaining mozzarella cheese on top.
3Place 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 10 minutes before serving.