My family LOVES this easy and delicious Baked Ziti recipe, and I love that it’s made all in just one pan! It’s as fast and delicious as comfort food gets and ready in less than 30 minutes!

Sometimes all I need in the world is a bowl filled with warm cheesy comfort food, like Chicken Noodle Casserole, Meatball Casserole, or Lasagna Soup!  But Baked ziti is always the first to come to mind when I think about satisfying this craving.

Baked Ziti made in a skillet with ziti noodles, cheese and sausage, with a wooden spoon scooping out a serving.

What we LOVE about this recipe:

  • 30-Minute Meals! This is one of many quick and easy 30 minute recipes that also happens to be super family friendly.
  • One pan dinner. One Pan meals are appealing to everyone because the entire meal is made using just one pan! This One Pan Baked Ziti accomplishes my goal of an easy homemade dinner– only using one pan from start to finish! It’s these type of meals that qualify you as rock-star mom status in my book 🙂   It’s cheesy, sauce-y and totally delicious!
  • Adaptable.  This recipe can be varied a lot depending on the ingredient you have or any dietary restrictions.  See suggestions below in the post.

How to make Baked Ziti:

1. Brown the sausage in a large skillet.
2. Sauté red bell pepper and garlic.  Then add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, and oregano.
Process photos for making baked ziti including browning meat in a skillet, adding diced tomatoes and seasoning, ziti pasta, and cream.
3. Add pasta: Simmer for about 10 minutes and then add the water and pasta.
4. Simmer: Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes.
Side by side photos of a pan full of a baked ziti dish before and after it is baked.
5. Add cheese and cream: Stir in the half and half and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
6. Bake: Top the dish with a generous sprinkle of mozzarella and bake at 500 degrees until the the cheese bubbly and golden. Allow the baked ziti to cool for a few minutes before serving.
I like to serve baked ziti with a warm vegetable or a big green salad. You could try these roasted vegetables or this wedge salad recipe.

Make Ahead And Freezing Instructions:

To make ahead: Yes, to make it ahead of time, follow the directions up to step 4.  Don’t add and cook the noodles yet because you don’t want them to get soggy or to soak up too much of the liquid. Continue with step 5 just before you want to serve it.

To freeze:  Prepare the recipe up until the baking step. Cover with a double layer of aluminum foil sprayed lightly with non-stick cooking spray.  Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or, bake from frozen, covered in foil for 1 hour and 15 minutes, and uncover and bake 20-30 minutes longer, or until bubbly and warmed through.

Recipe Variations and Adaptations:

  • The skillet: You can make it in any type of LARGE skillet, as long as it’s oven proof. A simple cast-iron skillet would work great.
  • The noodles: If you can’t find ziti noodles at the store, buy them online, or substitute penne, farfalle, or other type of bite-size pasta.
  • The meat: we love the flavor of ground sausage but feel free to substitute ground beef or turkey.
  • The cheese: substitute any type of shredded cheese if you don’t have mozzarella or parmesan.
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Recipe

Baked Ziti made in a skillet with ziti noodles, cheese and sausage, with a wooden spoon scooping out a serving.
Prep 5 mins
Cook 35 mins
Total 40 mins
Add to Meal Plan

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 pound ground Italian sausage (I use 'hot)
  • 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 5-6 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon dried basil (or ½ cup fresh basil leaves but add it at the end)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 3 cups water
  • 12 ounces ziti pasta (or similar pasta)
  • 1/2 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
  • Add olive oil to a deep, 12-inch or larger oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add sausage cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes. 
  • Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes. 
  • Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, dried basil and oregano. Stir well. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the water and dry pasta. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a low boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes or until noodles are tender.
  • Stir in the half and half, and parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly on top. 
  • Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the cheese has melted and browned, about 5 minutes. Enjoy!
  • I love to serve this with easy Homemade Breadsticks!

Notes

To Freeze: Prepare the recipe up until the baking step. Cover with a double layer of aluminum foil sprayed lightly with non-stick cooking spray.  Freeze for up to 3 months.
Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. Or, bake from frozen, covered in foil for 1 hour and 15 minutes, and uncover and bake 20-30 minutes longer, or until bubbly and warmed through..

Nutrition

Calories: 590kcalCarbohydrates: 60gProtein: 26gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 895mgPotassium: 670mgFiber: 4gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 650IUVitamin C: 13.1mgCalcium: 335mgIron: 3.7mg

Did You Make This Recipe?

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Have you tried this recipe?!

RATE and COMMENT below! I would love to hear your experience.

 

*I originally shared this recipe February 2015. Updated November 2018.

 

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Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Comments

  1. This has become a favorite dish for our family of five. Everyone loves it so much! Because we have a big family, I use 16 ounces of pasta, 2 8oz. Cans of tomato sauce, and 4 cups of water. I always use fresh basil at the end because it just adds that much more deliciousness to the pasta!

  2. 3 stars
    The sauce for this recipe is delicious until I added the 3 cups of water. It really diluted the flavor. Next time I make this I’ll cook the pasta before adding it to the skillet and omit the water.

  3. 5 stars
    My kids fixed this for me while visiting and it was excellent! Going to print this and make it when I get home for other family members and friends when we have potlucks!!

  4. 5 stars
    I’ve made this twice, once for my family and again for my roommates. Both times it worked out great! Half and half or cream is definitely best, but milk will do in a pinch. My skillet at home is not oven-safe, so after I made it I transferred it to two oven-safe baking glassware dishes before covering it with mozzarella and baking and that worked fine. Serving size is accurate.

  5. 5 stars
    Great baked ziti! the red pepper flakes add a bit of a kick, but not too much. I make this in an electric skillet without putting it in the oven and it’s yummy. My very picky kids won’t eat it (not a surprise since they turn their nose up at a lot of good food ) , but my husband and I love it. The cream adds a bit of creaminess and we really like it. Makes enough for leftovers.

  6. 5 stars
    Oh my goodness I made this for the first time tonight and proceeded to text the recipe to everyone I know because it is so good. I’m already dreaming about the next time I eat it. I’d give it a million stars if I could!

  7. 5 stars
    A family favorite! I do crushed tomatoes instead of diced to make the sauce a little smoother for the kids.

  8. 5 stars
    Love this recipe and make it at least twice a month! To fit our dietary needs, we cut the pasta and water in half. We also add a bag of fresh spinach with the cream, stirring to combine. If it is too hot in the summer to turn on the oven, we just pop the lid back on and let the steam melt the cheese and cook the spinach in minutes. Delicious, easy, and a great company meal! Everyone always asks for the recipe! Than you so much for sharing this!

  9. 5 stars
    My ten year old and I each had a pan and did a bake off with this one so we basically double-batched it. It came out amazing (actually his was a little better.) Easy to make, very filling and delicious.

  10. 5 stars
    I make this all the time. I’m not the best cook but this recipe is very simple and just as good as any ziti I’ve gotten at some well known Italian restaurants.

  11. 5 stars
    My husband has declared this recipe my best Pinterest find!!! 🙂 And he is not normally an Italian food fan. My family of 5 love it, and I have made it quite a bit! It is one of my favorite meals, and I make it for company.

    1. Yes, you could freeze it.Prepare it right up until the baking step and then cover with a double layer of aluminum foil. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking, or bake from frozen for 1 hour and 30 minutes, uncover and bake 30 minutes longer.

  12. 5 stars
    I made this for dinner last night. It was DELICIOUS! Honestly, I have been happy with every single one of your recipes that I’ve tried. Your weekly meal plans have made my life SO MUCH EASIER. Thank you! <3

  13. 5 stars
    Hubby says this is a keeper. I did add the 3 cups of water but boiled the pasta uncovered. Also I substituted whole milk and cornstarch for the cream. It was great. I’m so glad to finally add something new to the rotation. Thank you!

  14. Hi, can this be finished on the stove rather than oven? Know the cheese will not brown. However, not sure if my pan will tolerate a 500 oven!

    Thank you so much.

  15. 5 stars
    Made this last night and it was excellent! I portioned off a small amount of the sauce to make a smaller batch with gluten-free noodles and that also turned out great.

  16. 5 stars
    Excellent! We used a full pound of mild italian sausage (mild because of small children) & did not add any salt & pepper, otherwise followed recipe exactly. This will be one of our favorite recipes! Thanks for sharing!!

  17. 5 stars
    Since I’m a little picky I cooked it a little different. I use 1 lb ground beef, half a box of ziti, 8 oz Prego traditional sauce, 12 oz of carnation milk and 2 cups mozzarella cheese. Only differences I did was cooked the pasta separate until soft, drained them then mixed it with the beef, sauce, milk and cheese. It was amazing! Serving about 12 ppl.

  18. 5 stars
    This looks and sounds delicious! I have never made this before, so I will be saving your recipe for later.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. A dutch oven would work well. How far in advance would you be making it? I definitely think it tastes best hot from the oven.

  19. 4 stars
    Made this dish tonight. How nice to cook everything in one pan! I used Kroger hot italian sausage and used penne pasta since they didnt carry ziti. I wanted to use the entire box of pasta so I used one pound of sausage, 16 ounces of tomatoe sauce, 4 cups of water and alittle more of everything else. The only alteration I would make is I’d use less water and have more of the tomatoe sauce. It was a little too diluted for my taste. This recipe will definitely become a regular!

  20. 5 stars
    This is one of the best dishes I have ever had the pleasure to eat! We both felt it was better than the same dish ordered at various restaurants. Will definitely share and make again.

    1. What an amazing compliment! Thank you so much for sharing! Hope you get to try more of my recipes soon 🙂

  21. Looks great Laura. I am currently without an oven. Can the last step be finished off on the stovetop somehow? Thanks

    1. That’s no problem–the last step is just to get the cheese brown and bubbly. You can skip it– just sprinkle cheese on top and it will melt, and still taste great 🙂

  22. 5 stars
    Hands down our family’s favorite ziti bake! We usually sub a jar of our favorite chunky pasta sauce for the tomatoes and spices, and we even make it in the crock pot (2.5 hours on high). This dish tics all the boxes for us. Thank you for a superb version of an everyday recipe.

  23. 5 stars
    This has become a family favorite and also qualifies as nice enough for company! The only changes I’ve made are to use only 6oz of pasta and half of the water listed. Lately, we’ve also tossed in a bag of fresh spinach when adding the cream, for an easy one dish meal. Thanks so much for this fabulous recipe. My husband says it’s even better than the one at the Italian restaurant he loves!

  24. 5 stars
    This is one of my go to meals! Not only does my famil (toddlers included) love it, but everyone I make it for loves it! Anytime I need to take a meal to someone this is the winner!!!
    SO easy but delicious! Sure to impress!

  25. I made this and it had waaaaayyyyy tooo much water and i followed the recipe as is i would use maybe 1-2cups of water

  26. This is SO GOOD! Made it tonight on a whim, just happened to have everything. Will definitely be making it again. I love spicy, so the hot sausage and red pepper were right up my alley, but if you’re not into spicy, then you can get mild sausage or leave out the red pepper. I also only added 2 teaspoons of basil, which seemed to be perfect. This is a yummy, easy meal that will go a long way and fill you up! Can’t wait to eat leftovers tomorrow!

  27. So i made this last night and the flavor was so so good, but there was wayyyy to many noodles and not enough sauce, did you put the right measurements on the recipe??? Because you put 12oz of ziti and only 8 oz can of sauce and 15oz diced tomatoes and to me it was just to much pasta. I was really upset because the flavor was great it just wasnt saucey enough.

  28. Just finished eating this with my hungry pregnant wife. She was craving Italian, and this hit the spot. Thanks! This reminds me of Timbalo from Johnny Carino’s country Italian restaurant before they tried to make their menu healthier. Except this was simpler and better. I subbed whole milk cottage cheese 4 cream, and skip the parmesan. Will be making this again soon?

    1. Forgot to mention we used penne pasta, boiled it separately, and used a giant cast iron pan as the main baking pan. Our cheap Rachel Ray skillets couldn’t take 500 degrees!

  29. This would be nice if I had a bigger pan? Oh well, I don’t mind dishes! It’s still quick and easy and very delicious! I’m making it for the second time.

  30. I made this tonight to rave reviews from every single member of my family. Picky kids included! 🙂

  31. This meal was fast, easy, and delicious! I added in fresh spinach with the cream and Parmesan for an all in one meal. It got raves and the compliment that it was better than any baked ziti my husband had ordered at several Italian restaurants! Thanks so much, and I’m eager to try more of your recipes!

    1. Thanks so much Heidi! I’m really glad your family liked it, and I love the idea of adding spinach!

  32. So do you pour the water in with the sauce and boil it all with the noodles or do you do you boil the noodles separately?

    1. Hi Ashley, YES you add the water and noodles all in with the sauce and cook everything together in one pan :-). Super easy. Hope you love it.

  33. Can’t wait to try this tonight! I’m doing beef instead so I’ll drain the grease, but I noticed it didn’t say if I should drain the diced tomatoes? Thanks!

  34. I pinned this yesterday and made it this evening! It’s was very good! The only thing is that I didn’t use Italian sausage bc the the store near my house didn’t have it so I just used ground beef. Will make again!!!! Thank you for sharing!!!

  35. I was looking for an easy recipe and found this “one pan baked ziti…I used sweet Italian sausage, crushed tomatoes (it’s what I had on hand), didn’t have a pan to put in the oven so when it came to step 4 I transferred it to a baking dish…I think, it came out great…I will be making this again & again…MAHALO for sharing this recipe with all of us…

  36. Oh my lands!!!! Just made this…One of the best pasta dishes I have ever made!!! And so easy! Waaaaaaay fewer dishes to deal with too!!!! LOOOVE!!!!

  37. I really love this one pan recipe! The taste is wonderful. However, I was wanting to double it but I don’t have a big enough pan. How could I adapt this for a casserole dish?

    1. Hi Noemi, that would work easily! Cook the sauce according to step 1 directions. Then cook the the pasta separately in boiling water until tender. Then combine the sauce and pasta in a large bowl. Stir in the half and half and parmesan cheese and then pour everything into a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle mozzarella on top and bake. I’d bake it at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes and then turn it to broil for 5.

  38. I have printed a number of your recipes this morning. I love simple and fresh and all of yours seem so easy. I will be making them starting tonight. Also I have most the ingredient’s in my house already! Please know that I will be sharing these with my friends also. I have shared you on my ace Book page. Thank you for so many ideas!

    1. Hi JoAnn, I’m so happy to hear it! I hope you enjoy everything you make! And thanks for sharing 🙂

  39. I agree about the oven – no need to turn on until last minute. 500 degrees heats your house up pretty quick. No bueno if its summer time! Of course if its winter, I guess it doesn’t matter. I did not use the red flakes. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly and it was delicious. I bought the diced tomatoes that are already seasoned with basil and oregano, so there was no need to add those spices. My husband and two teens loved this!

  40. I made it today and the one thing I realized is that you don’t need to preheat the oven at the very beginning. Otherwise you have an oven going at 500° for quite a while before you actually put the dish in and it warms up the kitchen a little too much!

    1. 5 stars
      Since all you’re doing is melting the cheese in the oven I just ran it under the broiler for a couple of minutes and that was it.

  41. Wonderful recipe…had to cut the kids off so my hubby would have some! Going in my meal plan. I am a huge fan of skillet meals a.k.a one dish wonderfuls!

  42. Oh.My.Gosh!! Just made this tonight and it all disappeared. My hubs even cleaned his plate with his crusty bread, it was SO GOOD. I added sliced zucchini and red bell pepper, it was delicious. Thanks for such an inspiring recipe!

  43. I made this tonight and we loved it! I substituted regular mild sausage for the Italian sausage. Do you know what would work well for a vegetarian version?

  44. I’m working on getting better at one pot meals and this one looks fantastic! Will have to try soon. Pinned 🙂

  45. We just bought a very large cast iron skillet with a lid this would be wonderful camping food. Thank you for sharing on My Recipe Magic.

  46. I love recipes that don’t require a whole ton of clean-up afterward! 😀 I’ve never tried making baked ziti, but this would be the perfect dish to warm up with! :]

  47. Pasta is one of my favorite dishes! I’ve always said that I have 1/18th percent Italian in my blood. This looks so good that I can’t not try it! 🙂

  48. Looks amazing (and your photos are wonderful)! I love pasta and it tends to be agreeable to the toddler, so I’m going to have to try this one.

  49. My son loves pasta (me not so much) so I dread making it, but this I may try as it sounds so easy. I think he’ll really like it. Thanks for sharing.

  50. This looks amazing. And how great that it is made in one pan! I’m going to have to add this to our meal schedule next week.

      1. When my husband & I use ground hamburger or sausage we rinse it under hot water to try to get a lot of the fat off. When we use hot sausage we don’t rinse it as long so the hot flavoring doesn’t go down the drain or we add some crushed red peppers & sometimes some Cajun power seasoning. It works out great & no one else knows we rinse the meat. My husband is the one who taught me to use spices on most everything. He is the real cook in the family & does a lot better than I do. Sometimes I don’t like to add a bunch of spices because I like things that don’t have a lot of seasonings, like mac & cheese.
        Rinsing the meat after it is cooks takes away a lot of the calories.

  51. That looks wonderful! I’m a sucker for baked ziti. I’ve never tried to make it in one pan though. That would save so many dishes haha.

    1. The pics looJed so yummy so I had to try it! Omg!!! It turned out amazing. The whole family LOVED it. Thank you for sharing ?

      1. Could someone tell me why these recipes always called for 8 oz or 12 oz of pasta why don’t they just make a recipe that use the whole Box it’s a pet peeve and so annoying And how do I adjust the water if I used a pound of pasta

        1. I do 4 cups of water to one 16 oz package of noddles & works great! Can also use some beef broth & less water for more flavor!

    2. Aw man this looks amazing. Well made it tonight and the ice and I went back for seconds. Thanks for the post and recipe.

    3. I agree! This looks yummy, and I do want to try it. Just a note – the pasta in the photo is rigatoni. Ziti is narrower, a little longer and smooth (no ridges). It also seems harder to find where I live so I will use the rigatoni.