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 or watch our quick recipe video showing you how we make it.
Watch us make the recipe
Our tips for 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.
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.
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!)
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
- Easy Vegetable Lasagna
- Ultra Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
- Sausage Stuffed Shells with Spinach
- Creamy White Chicken Lasagna
- Perfect Lasagna with Beef and Sausage
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.
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
- Prepare Ziti
Combine 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.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (if your oven runs hot, reduce this to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Bring 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.
In a medium bowl, toss the mozzarella, Fontina and Pecorino Romano cheese together.
Add 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.
Transfer 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.