Extra Cheesy Baked Ziti

Extra easy baked ziti made entirely from scratch! Our favorite baked ziti recipe is creamy and cheesy with a mixture of pasta, a five minute homemade sauce and four cheeses. Jump to the Extra Cheesy Baked Ziti Recipe

Serving baked ziti with four cheeses

How to Make the Best Baked Ziti

I love how quick this baked ziti is to make. The whole process takes about 30 minutes. Basically, all you need to do is mix all the ingredients together, add to a baking dish, and then bake until bubbling and all the cheese melts.

Cheesy baked ziti

Here’s the basic process for making it, the full recipe is shared below:

Make the five-minute sauce. Use a food processor, blender or food mill to combine canned whole tomatoes with basil, garlic, olive oil and some creamy cheese. I use mascarpone cheese, but ricotta cheese or cream cheese will work, too.

Partially cook any tube-shaped pasta. Ziti, rigatoni and penne are all perfectly fine to use. We like the tube-shaped pastas for this because the sauce gets trapped inside each piece of pasta. We only partially cook the pasta so that when it bakes in the oven it doesn’t overcook and become mushy.

Mix the partially cooked pasta with the sauce and more cheese, and then add to a baking dish.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the dish is bubbling and all the cheese is melted.

Serving baked ziti

You may also enjoy our Baked Ziti with Spinach and Artichokes!

Making the Ziti

You can always swap in store-bought or your own homemade sauce in this recipe (you’ll need 3 1/2 to 4 cups), but our go-to sauce works wonders in this recipe.

You just need a food processor, blender or food mill to make it. (Watch our video to see how quick and easy it is!)

Making baked ziti with sauce, pasta and cheese

Any cheese that melts nicely will work well in baked ziti. I like to use the following:

  • Shredded mozzarella, which melts nicely (or use sliced fresh mozzarella)
  • Shredded fontina, which is nutty and sweet. It also melts beautifully.
  • Parmesan or Romano cheese, which are tangy, salty and sharper in flavor.
  • Mascarpone or whole milk ricotta cheese. We add this to our sauce to make it creamy. Another substitute is cream cheese, although this will add more of a tangy flavor.

We keep our baked ziti meatless. If you’d prefer to add meat, try stirring in some cooked crumbled sausage or substitute the sauce we call for in our recipe below for this easy meat sauce. For a veggie packed, vegetarian baked ziti, try the sauce we use to make our veggie spaghetti.

More Easy Baked Pastas

Extra Cheesy Baked Ziti

  • PREP
  • COOK

Extra easy baked ziti made entirely from scratch! Our favorite baked ziti recipe is creamy and cheesy with a mixture of pasta, a five minute homemade sauce and four cheeses.

Makes 8 servings

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need

1 pound dried pasta like ziti, penne or rigatoni

1 (28 ounce) can San Marzano whole tomatoes

1 cup (20 grams) fresh basil leaves or 3 tablespoons dried basil

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

3 garlic cloves, minced (1 tablespoon)

1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone cheese or use whole milk ricotta

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 1/2 ounces (1 1/2 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese

4 1/2 ounces (1 1/2 cups) shredded Fontina cheese

2 1/4 ounces (3/4 cup) shredded Pecorino Romano cheese


  • Make Sauce
  • 1Combine canned tomatoes and their juices, basil, garlic, salt, pepper and the mascarpone cheese in a blender or food processor. (A food mill will also work.) Blend until the basil and garlic are chopped into tiny bits and the sauce is well mixed. Taste and adjust with additional salt as needed. Set aside.

  • Prepare Ziti
  • 1Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (if your oven runs hot, reduce this to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.)

    2Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the pasta, and then cook for about half of the recommended cook time on the package (5 or 6 minutes). Save 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta, and then place it back into the pot. Undercooking the pasta makes sure that it does not overcook when baked with the sauce in the oven.

    3In a medium bowl, toss the mozzarella, Fontina and Pecorino Romano cheese together.

    4Add the sauce, 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water and three-quarters of the shredded cheese mix to the pot with pasta. Stir well. The mixture should look a bit thin, if it seems thick, add a splash more of the reserved pasta water.

    5Transfer the ziti mixture to a large baking dish and top with the remaining shredded cheese mix. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted and golden brown on top. Allow the baked ziti to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Use store-bought sauce: You will need 3 1/2 to 4 cups of sauce to make this baked ziti.
  • Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.

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

Nutrition Per Serving Serving Size 1/8 of the recipe / Calories 511 / Total Fat 27.2g / Saturated Fat 15.7g / Cholesterol 74.4mg / Sodium 511mg / Carbohydrate 46.4g / Dietary Fiber 2.8g / Total Sugars 4.5g / Protein 19.1g
AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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8 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Jill Fleming August 4, 2021, 9:03 pm

    I plan on making this for my daughter’s grad party, this is her favorite! Any tips on making ahead and storing beforehand?

    • Adam August 7, 2021, 2:14 pm

      You can assemble the ziti ahead of time, and either refrigerate or freeze before you do the final baking. If you do freeze it, thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking. You can also refrigerate/freeze baked ziti and then reheat in the oven.

  • Mohamed April 3, 2021, 1:08 am

    Tried it for lunch today and it’s awesome!

  • Josephena Winfield January 3, 2021, 11:35 am

    Thank you for sharing this! I cannot wait to make it for my family.

  • Suzie January 1, 2021, 10:14 am

    At what point in the recipe is the ricotta added?

    • Joanne September 27, 2021, 2:06 pm

      Ricotta is a substitute for the mascarpone cheese in this recipe. Add it to the tomatoes and blend into the sauce.

  • Darla Foulks November 13, 2020, 10:55 am

    I love the extra easy extra cheesy ziti video. I plan to try it this weekend!

  • Nancy Mackenzie November 12, 2020, 12:37 pm

    I would use a greater proportion of fontina to mozzarella because fontina melts better and it’s my personal preference to not have gooey cheese in my pasta. My preference is to serve mozzarella fresh, not cooked; I will however incorporate a small amount of the dry packaged mozzarella into ziti or lasagna.


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