This meatless baked ziti is a simple, yet hearty dish the whole family will love!  Ziti pasta is combined with sweet tomato sauce, creamy ricotta, melty mozzarella, and salty Pecorino Romano cheese, and then baked until bubbly and just the slightest bit crisp.   If this isn’t the ultimate comfort food, I don’t know what is!

Close up shot of baked ziti.

This is a meatless baked ziti recipe.  But with all the mozzarella and ricotta you will hardly notice the meat is missing!

If you desire a recipe with a meat sauce, check out our pasta al forno recipe.  It’s similar but uses a hearty beef and pork ragu and is a heavier dish than this one. 

Alternatively, you could use our classic Italian meatballs recipe and break them up into pieces and add to the sauce. 

The variations are really endless and you can certainly experiment and add additional ingredients, like roasted eggplant or zucchini, fontina cheese, or chopped spinach.

For this recipe, you will need plum tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, and onion for the sauce. 

Already have the sauce made?  Then, you’ll only need ricotta, mozzarella, Pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese, and ziti or any similar shaped pasta. 

We used pennoni.  Rigatoni and penne would be perfect as well.

Ingredients shown: Pecorino Romano, mozzarella, ricotta cheese, pasta, and a pot of sauce.

 

How to make it

Note: The instructions start with the sauce already made.  Use our low and slow-cooked Sunday sauce recipe or a quick marinara (recipe provided below in recipe card).  If you’re really in a rush, you could use jarred sauce.  We will usually save left-over sauce and freeze it just for nights when we feel like a little baked ziti!

  1. Grate about 1/3 of the mozzarella block for the top and cube the rest for the layers.
  2. Cook pasta to very ‘al dente’ (about 2 minutes less than package instructions) and toss with about 2-3 cups of the sauce.

Baked ziti recipe process shot collage.

  1. Mix the ricotta with the pasta and sauce.  Coat a large baking dish ( 4-5 quart is a perfect size) with a layer of sauce.  Add some of the mixed pasta and layer the mozzarella cubes on top of it.  Sprinkle some of the Pecorino Romano on top and a bit more sauce.  Repeat process for 2 more layers.  On the top add a bit more sauce and the grated mozzarella and more Pecorino Romano cheese.
  2. Bake at 375-400f for 25-30 minutes until cooked through and the cheese is bubbling.

Overhead view of finished baked ziti in oval bowl.

Remove from the oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes uncovered to firm up a bit. 

Serve baked ziti with a nice veggie side like Italian green beans.   Garlicky Italian broccoli or sauteed broccoli rabe with garlic and oil would also be perfect side dishes.

Substitutions and additions

  • meat – Ground sausage removed from its casing can be added to the sauce for a nice kick.  And as mentioned above, beef and pork can easily be added to the sauce for a heartier dish.
  • cheeses – Pecorino Romano was used but Parmigiano Reggiano can be substituted.  That’s a personal preference.  Ricotta is hard to substitute.  I’ve seen some info recommending cottage cheese, yogurt, or cream cheese.  Of the 3, cottage cheese is the closest but will lack the delicious creaminess of the ricotta.  For the mozzarella, feel free to substitute fresh mozzarella, but realize that it won’t melt quite as well.  For baked ziti, good old Polly-O brand block mozzarella is really hard to beat!
  • pasta – Any tubular pasta works well.  Penne, rigatoni, casarecce, and tortiglioni are all great for this dish.
  • eggplant – Roasted eggplant pieces mixed in with the cubes of mozzarella are absolutely amazing in this recipe.  For another great eggplant recipe check out this rigatoni alla Norma recipe.

Baked pasta dish on table with steam rising from it.

Top tips

  • Undercook the pasta!  Fully boiled pasta will become mushy after baking for another 30 minutes, so aim for ‘al dente’ or even a bit firmer.  About 2 minutes less than the box instructions.
  • Put a nice layer of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish to avoid sticking.
  • Add the pasta in layers with the cubes of mozzarella cheese distributed randomly.  This gives a better texture to the dish with a bigger bite of cheese in one spot than the other.  It’s not required, but a nice touch.
  • Bake the pasta until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned on top.  If you desire, broil the top for 1-2 minutes to crisp it up right before serving, but watch carefully to avoid burning.  

Leftovers

Baked ziti is one of the best dishes to make ahead.  To reheat an already made batch just use the microwave. 

For an uncooked frozen batch, just bake the whole frozen prepared ziti in the oven at 375-400f until completely cooked through.  This takes around 60-90 minutes but just check to make sure it’s warmed all the way through.

Pinterest image.

More baked pasta

If you’ve enjoyed this meatless baked ziti recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and leave a review.

Some people learn by watching.  If you’re that type of person, you can find most of our recipes on YouTube and our Facebook Page.

Meatless Baked Ziti

5 from 23 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Servings: 6
Super hearty and delicious meatless baked ziti with ricotta, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano cheese.

Ingredients 

For the sauce

  • 2 28 ounce canned plum tomatoes blender pulsed
  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

For the baked ziti

  • 1 pound ziti
  • 1 pound block whole milk mozzarella 2/3 cubed, 1/3 grated
  • 1 pound ricotta
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano grated

Instructions 

For the sauce

  • Saute onion for 3-5 minutes in olive oil on medium-low heat in a large pot until soft. Add garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes more until fragrant.
  • Add the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, stirring with a spoon. Add the plum tomatoes and season with pepper.
  • Cook for 15 minutes uncovered, stirring frequently to avoid any sticking. After 15 minutes, taste-test the sauce and adjust salt and pepper if required.
  • Keep the sauce warm and set aside.

For the baked ziti

  • Preheat oven to 375f. Boil pasta to 1-2 minutes less than package instructions.
  • In a large bowl mix pasta with 2-3 cups of sauce and 1 pound of ricotta cheese. Mix until smooth and creamy.
  • Coat a 4-5 quart baking dish with a thin layer of sauce. Add 1/3 of the pasta. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cubed mozzarella, 1/3 of the grated Pecorino Romano and a bit more sauce on top. Repeat for another 2 layers.
  • On the top layer add a bit more sauce, the shredded mozzarella, and the remaining Pecorino Romano cheese.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and lightly brown. If a more crispy top is desired, broil for 1-2 minutes, but watch carefully to avoid burning.
  • Remove from oven and let baked ziti sit for 5-10 minutes to settle. Serve with remaining sauce on the side, more grated cheese, and Italian bread. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Undercook the pasta!  Fully boiled pasta will become mushy after baking for another 30 minutes, so shoot for 'al dente' or even a bit firmer.  About 2 minutes less than the box instructions.
  • Put a nice layer of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish to avoid sticking.
  • Add the pasta in layers with the cubes of mozzarella cheese distributed randomly.  This gives a better texture to the dish with a bigger bite of cheese in one spot than the other.  It's not required but a nice touch.
  • Bake the pasta until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned on top.  If you want, broil the top for 1-2 minutes to crisp it up right before serving, but watch carefully to avoid burning.  

Nutrition

Calories: 751kcal | Carbohydrates: 71.9g | Protein: 40.3g | Fat: 35.3g | Saturated Fat: 17.8g | Cholesterol: 87mg | Sodium: 826mg | Potassium: 508mg | Fiber: 4.7g | Sugar: 12.6g | Calcium: 618mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this? Leave a comment below!Check us out on Instagram at @sipandfeast or tag #sipandfeast!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

50 Comments

  1. Maryjane says:

    I made your baked ziti for a potluck cast party. It was a HUGE HIT. The only thing was, there weren’t any leftovers for me to polish off at home!

    1. Tara says:

      That’s great news, Maryjane! We’re so happy you all enjoyed!

  2. Cathy S. says:

    Hi! If I wanted to use whole wheat pasta in this recipe, would that affect the cooking time? Thanks.

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Cathy, we haven’t tested the recipe with whole wheat pasta so can’t say for sure, but I’d think any impact would be minimal. I’d suggest you following the instructions on the package for the whole wheat pasta and boil it to 1-2 minutes less than instructions, same as you would for regular pasta.

  3. Marie says:

    I put it all together this morning and put it in the frig. I did not bake it. How long do I need to bake it when it’s cold.

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Marie, it could take anywhere from 45-60 minutes (or more) to reheat. Heat at 375-400 until warmed through.

  4. Sharon says:

    5 stars
    It turned out great! Kids loved it!!

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Sharon, we’re so happy you enjoyed and appreciate your comment!

  5. Glenn says:

    Hey Jim,
    Just wanted to pop in and say I’m back to make this AGAIN. Great stuff, always.
    Thanks,
    Glenn

    1. James says:

      Hey Glenn, glad to hear you’re making it again! Hope you enjoy and thanks for the comment!