The key to this three cheese baked ziti is the creamy and rich cheese mixture made with shredded mozzarella, ricotta and parmesan cheese. It's all made in just one pan and finished off in the oven for a wonderful textured finish— truly a comfort food and a family favorite!
You know how baked ziti is good? Well, this baked ziti is REALLY good. Today, I'd like to introduce you to this REALLY GOOD THREE CHEESE BAKED ZITI— made in just one pan making it even better!
I've been making this baked ziti for years, it's been tweaked here and there and devoured by many. It's simplicity all around: chewy noodles, flavorful tomato sauce, a blend of cheeses, all tossed together in one pan.
Tell Me About This Three Cheese Baked Ziti
- Texture: Insanely creamy from the ricotta mixture.
- Flavor: There's so many levels of flavor in this baked ziti. From the beef to the spices to the ricotta mixture.
- Ease: Overall this recipe is pretty easy with minimal hands on work. Plus, it's an excellent make-ahead freezer make— prepare everything in advance and freeze it. When you're ready to serve, thaw overnight and bake!
- Time: There's minimal prep time, about 5 minutes, for this recipe. Set aside another 30 minutes for the cook time.
Does Baked Ziti Have Meat?
This recipe calls for 1 pound of ground beef, though you can use sausage or turkey as a substitute. There are times that I've made this without meat simply because I either didn't have any or forgot to take it out of the freezer and it's still delicious! Though I prefer meat in baked ziti, mainly for the extra layer of flavor that it provides.
Can Baked Ziti Be Made In Advance?
Making this ahead of time is a life savor for busy nights or nights when you don't feel like cooking. Start with the recipe and rather than finishing it off in the oven, transfer to a baking dish and let it come to room temperature. Then, cover it with foil and store it in the refrigerator. When you're ready, bake for 45 minutes (remove the foil the last 15 minutes) until it's warmed through and the cheese is melted.
More Easy Meals
- One Pan Creamy Italian Sausage Pasta
- Skillet Chicken and Rice
- One Pot Broccoli and Sausage Pasta
- Easy Oven Baked Meatballs
- One Pan Creamy Beef Pasta
Really Good Three Cheese Baked Ziti
- 1 pound 90-93% lean ground beef*
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 32-ounce low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 pound rigatoni pasta*
- 1 15-ounce full-fat ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- In a large oven-safe pot, like this, cook the beef over medium-high heat. As the beef starts to cook, break it up with a spatula until cooked through. Stir in the garlic. Then, stir in the chicken broth and crushed tomatoes, while gently rubbing the bottom of the pan with the spatula to lift up the flavor bits. Bring to a boil, just as you would water for pasta.
- One boiling, add the salt and pasta, give it a stir and cover the pot with a lid. The cook time will vary depending on the type of pasta that is used, for rigatoni it's anywhere from 11-14 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. While the pasta cooks, combine the cheese mixture in a medium bowl. Add the ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, parmesan cheese, egg, black pepper, oregano, and parsley. Stir together until combined.
- Once the pasta is cooked, stir in the ricotta mixture. Then, top with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for 10 minutes, uncovered, until lightly browned. Garnish with fresh basil and parmesan cheese, if desired.
- The pasta stays fresh for up to 1 week when stored in the refrigerator.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: This recipe is perfect for making ahead and freezing. Follow the recipe through step 4, allow the pasta to come to room temperature and transfer to a baking dish. Cover with foil and store in the refrigerator. It freezes for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake for 1 hour at 350°F until it's warmed through and the cheese is melted.
- Meat: You can use ground turkey, sausage or beef for this recipe. If you're using a higher fat content, scoop out some of the fat prior to cooking the pasta.
- Pasta: Use a pasta that's your favorite. I prefer to use a pasta that gives the sauce the ability to stick to— rigatoni, fusilli or rotini.