Baked ziti is a perfect family friendly fill them up kind of meal. It can be made ahead and baked to creamy, cheesy perfection.
Nothing says delicious quite like baked pasta. This baked ziti is always popular at our dinner table and those of our friends as well.
It can be assembled ahead of time if you’d like, making it a great make and take. So it’s perfect for bringing to families with new babies as well!
Of course you can also make and bake it all in one foul swoop, then dinner is ready in under an hour. It is a great way to fill everyone’s belly and enjoy every bite.
After taking a bite of this baked ziti, Little Dude’s first reaction was this is a lot like lasagna. In a lot of ways that is true.
Of course it is a layered baked pasta fish with lots of sauce and cheese. Plus there are so many different ways to make this Italian-american classic.
Most likely the way your mom made it is how you would like for it to be. This recipe is how my mom made it, so it is perfect as far as my family is concerned.
Making 3 Cheese Baked Ziti
There are a few things about it that were surprising to me the first time I made it. The first was that it is difficult to find actual ziti at my grocery.
They have a thousand shapes of pasta, everything from the spaghetti rings to make spaghettios to the classics. But somehow despite baked ziti being such a popular recipe, there is no ziti to be found.
Ziti is a smooth tubular pasta. Though the dish very specifically mentions it, don’t despair if you can’t find it either.
I actually ordered some just so I could show you the correct pasta in the pictures, but have made the recipe tons of time with other pasta shapes. Usually I stick to larger tubular pasta, but you can use whatever you’d like.
Rigatoni is my usual fallback and last time I shared this recipe that is what I used. Penne is another great tube shaped pasta option.
The second big surprise with the recipe was the use of sour cream. Not ricotta, not cottage cheese… sour cream.
It sounds so strange and still throws me off a little because I don’t put sour cream in any other Italian inspired pasta recipe that I can think of. Somehow it just works though, so you should give it a try.
A Perfect Make Ahead Meal
One of the reasons I love this recipe is how easy it is to put together. Even better, it is almost no more work to make two of them at once.
That is one of the many reasons it is a favorite of mine to bring to friends who are new moms. Or you can just make one for now and freeze one for later.
It can be assembled ahead, covered and refrigerated until it’s time to eat. Then just let it sit at room temperature while the oven preheats and add ten to fifteen minutes to the bake time.
There is no work other than popping it in the oven. Give them some garlic bread and a bag of salad and dinner is done.
To avoid drying the pasta out, I would bake it covered for the first half hour. Then remove the foil and let it finish baking open to help brown the cheese.
Eating it one handed is easy enough too. You can stab a noodle and eat it while comforting baby.
You can also make it meatless easily enough. Just leave the ground beef out.
I have made it for Catholic friends during Lent and it was still a hit. It is easy to customize to your needs and tastes.
You could also make an extra and freeze it for later. Just place the frozen casserole in the refrigerator the night before you plan to eat it to let it thaw.
Again, you will want to let it sit at room temperature while the oven preheats and let it bake a little longer than you would if you made it fresh. Much like the refrigerated version, I would cover it with some aluminum foil for the first half hour of bake time.
Once the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted it should be done. Give it a few minutes of rest and it is ready to serve and enjoy!
Do you have a favorite make and take meal? Or maybe a comfort food specialty that you love to make during the cold weather?
You May Also Like:
If you love baked pasta recipes, creamy beef and noodle casserole is another great option. It would be a great take and bake meal as well.
Or if you love baked pasta dishes, but hate the prep, check out my no boil pasta casserole. You don’t have to boil the noodles or brown the sausage. Just layer it all in the pan and let it bake to perfection.
You can also make baked ziti without boiling the pasta or browning the meat. No boil baked ziti is another option for when you are too tired for the prep.
Check out my full collection of casserole recipes for more great filling meal ideas.
3 Cheese Baked Ziti
- 1 pound dry ziti pasta
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 48 ounces spaghetti sauce 2 jars
- 6 ounces provolone cheese sliced
- 1½ cups sour cream
- 6 ounces mozzarella cheese shredded
- 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a 9×13" baking dish.
- Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook ziti until al dente. Drain and set aside.1 pound dry ziti pasta
- In a large skillet, brown ground beef seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook until translucent.1 onion, 1 pound lean ground beef, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Add spaghetti sauce and simmer 15 minutes.48 ounces spaghetti sauce
- Layer as follows: ½ of the ziti, ½ of sauce mixture, provolone cheese, sour cream, remaining ziti, remaining sauce mixture, then mozzarella cheese. Top with Parmesan cheese.6 ounces provolone cheese, 1½ cups sour cream, 6 ounces mozzarella cheese, 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- Bake for 30 minutes or until cheeses are melted. (If you made it ahead of time, pull casserole out of the refrigerator while the oven preheats and bake 45 minutes or so or until heated through and bubbly.)