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Baked Ziti

Italian-American comfort food doesn’t get any more classic than a big baking dish full of cheesy baked ziti with sausage.


baked ziti in a baking dish with marinara, pasta, mozzarella and basil

Easy Baked Ziti: Cheesy, Carby Comfort-in-a-Pan

Remember how, on The Sopranos, Carmela always had a pan of baked ziti on-hand? Whatever was going on in Meadow or Tony’s life, they could come home and open the fridge and there was this huge, comforting pan full of baked ziti just waiting to be dug into. (We all watched The Sopranos mostly for the food, right? Just us? Oh, OK.) Or maybe it was a perpetual leftover situation. Whatever it was, it always had us craving a big pan of cheesy baked pasta, loaded with sausage and tomato sauce. And that craving never really went away! So, today, we’re making nothing more and nothing less than the best baked ziti recipe ever.

ziti pasta, ground sausage, marinara, cream, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning onion and mozzarella for homemade baked ziti

Everything You’ll Need To Make The Best Baked Ziti Recipe

Oozing with two kinds of mozzarella cheese and parmesan, too, this sausage-loaded baked ziti recipe is the very definition of Italian American cuisine—hearty, filling, imbued with a sense of indulgence and generosity and (most of all!) fit for a crowd. Here’s everything you’ll need to make it:

  • Italian sausage
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Marinara sauce
  • Tomato sauce
  • Italian seasoning
  • Heavy cream
  • Ziti pasta. Ziti is a bit smaller than rigatoni, and it usually has smooth sides. There’s nothing exactly like it, but if you have trouble finding it, penne is a good substitute.
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Chili flakes
  • Fresh basil
browned ground sausage, onion and garlic in a dutch oven
marinara, Italian seasoning, cream and ground sausage in a dutch oven
marinara and ground sausage in a dutch oven
ziti pasta, marinara and mozzarella cheese in a dutch oven

How to Make Baked Ziti

Baked ziti is a little bit lasagna-esqe, but easier! It’s also one of the most crowd-pleasing pasta recipes we know. Most pasta recipes aren’t great for entertaining, because you have to make them at the last minute and eat them right away. But because baked ziti is made in a casserole dish in the oven, it’s ideal for serving to company. Pop it in the oven just before people arrive, and all you’ll have left to do is take it out and serve! Here’s how to make the creamiest, cheesiest, best baked ziti ever:

  1. Cook the pasta until it’s just al dente—it needs to have some bite to it, because it will continue cooking in the oven.
  2. Brown the ground sausage, onion and garlic.
  3. Pour in the marinara sauce, tomato sauce, salt, Italian seasoning and heavy cream. Get chills, because that creamy, sausage-y, tomato-y baked ziti sauce looks SO good.
  4. Dump the al dente pasta and shredded mozzarella into the sauce
  5. Carefully pour—or ladle—the saucey ziti mixture to a baking dish.
  6. Top the ziti with fresh mozzarella and more shredded mozzarella—cheese, cheese and more cheese—and bake!
ziti pasta in a dutch oven with marinara, pasta, mozzarella and basil
baked ziti in a baking dish with marinara and pasta
baked ziti in a baking dish with marinara, pasta, mozzarella
baked ziti in a baking dish with marinara, pasta, mozzarella

More Italian American Pasta Recipes

If we could only eat one cuisine for the rest of our lives, we’d pick Italian American. We just do not get tired of it. It’s highly likely that you’ll make this baked ziti recipe and find that you suddenly need to have creamy, cheesy pastas like that in your life on the regular! If that’s the case, fear not—we’ve got you covered:

baked ziti in a baking dish with marinara, pasta, mozzarella and basil

Tools You’ll Need

baked ziti in a baking dish with marinara, pasta, mozzarella and basil
a scoop taken out of baked ziti in a baking dish with marinara, pasta, mozzarella and basil

Mangia Bene!

Baked ziti is a downhome dish that oozes with cheese, yes, but also a spirit of generosity. It invites you to gather people at your table and eat well together. We hope you love this recipe! If you make it, let us know how you like it! Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

Baked Ziti

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time:  35 min
  • Cook Time:  25 min
  • Calories: 575


  • 1 pound ziti pasta
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, ground
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce or homemade
  • 1 (14-ounce) jar tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 8 ounce fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes, for serving
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the center position.

  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and salt it. Cook the ziti, al dente according to the package instructions. Drain.

  3. Meanwhile, set a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, onion and garlic and cook, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon, until browned and the onions are softened, about 8 minutes. If there is an excess amount of fat, drain off as much as possible into a small heat proof bowl.

  4. Add the marinara sauce, tomato sauce, salt, Italian seasoning and heavy cream, stir until combined. Stir in the pasta and 1½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese.

  5. Transfer the pasta and marinara/meat sauce to a 9x13 baking dish.

  6. Top with the fresh mozzarella slices and remaining ½ cup shredded mozzarella, cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven, uncover and transfer back to the oven. Cook for 5 more minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned and the sauce is bubbling.

  7. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan, chili flakes and fresh basil.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories575
  • Protein35 g
  • Carbohydrates52 g
  • Total Fat26 g
  • Dietary Fiber4 g
  • Cholesterol80 mg
  • sodium914 mg
  • Total Sugars4 g

Baked Ziti

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Julie

    Have you tried this recipe with other pastas? I am trying to use what I have on hand. I have a box of cellentani that I think would probably work well as it's also along noodle like ziti.

    I'm sure it will be fine, hope you enjoy Julie!

  • Jamie Eula Evangelista

    Hello! Can I make this dish ahead a day ahead of time and bake on the day of? How and which step could I refrigerate it?

    When you add the cheese in step 6, cover it and place it in the fridge and bake it the next day.

  • Erin Zagnoev

    Bake and then freeze? What is best? I want to take it to a friend who had surgery but she asked that all things are able to go into the freezer! Thanks for your help!

    Yes. Bake and then freeze. She can thaw and reheat as needed.

  • Allison Chester

    Aloha! Does this freeze well?

    Hi Allison! Yes, baked ziti is a great freezer meal! It'll keep in the freezer for about a month.

  • Susy Sevilla

    The baked ziti was delicious and a hit with my husband. I will definitely keep this recipe in my rotation. I didn’t realize that it made so many servings so we will have pasta for the next few days lol.

    Thanks Susy! We are so happy you both loved it!

  • Ellen S

    When the kids ask for seconds you know you have a winner!

    YESSSSSS! There is nothing better than that Ellen! So happy you and your family enjoyed it!

  • Lea Young

    This was so good!! Easy to make, and really delicious. Great for big families, when you have guests - or just want to have some tasty leftovers. I will make this again and again.

    This is so great to hear, Lea! Thank you so much, we are so happy you enjoyed it!

  • Lauren Swan

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe. Such a great dish to a family who is in need of a meal (new baby, illness, etc). I made it multiple times and it is always a hit even with my picky eater. I use 1.5 pounds of Italian sausage but otherwise make it as is. 5+ stars!

    Yes!! We're so glad it's a hit! ❤️

  • Erin Freeman

    Made this tonight, and it was delicious! In the words of my 3-year-old daughter, it was “yummy in my tummy!” This is the 4th recipe that I’ve made from your blog, and all have absolutely been 5 stars!!!!