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5 from 4 votes

Baked Ziti with Meatballs

Baked ziti with meatballs combines pasta, creamy ricotta, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano cheeses with a simple marinara and tiny meatballs and baked until golden and melty.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time1 hour 20 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6


For the tiny meatballs

  • 1/2 pound ground chuck
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf Italian parsley minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano grated

For the sauce

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
  • 2 28-ounce cans plum tomatoes hand crushed or blender pulsed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Remaining ingredients

  • 1 pound ziti or penne, rigatoni, etc
  • 1 pound mozzarella shredded, divided
  • 1 pound ricotta
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano grated


For the meatballs

  • Preheat oven to 375f and set rack to middle level.
  • In a large bowl mix together all of the meatball ingredients. Form tiny meatballs about a 1/2 to 3/4-inch in diameter.
  • Place the tiny meatballs on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake until they reach 165f internal temp (about 15-20 minutes). While the meatballs are baking start the sauce.

For the sauce

  • In a large pan or pot saute the onion in olive oil for 4 minutes over medium heat or until translucent. Next, add the garlic and cook for about 2 more minutes or until fragrant. Add the hot red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more.
  • Add the plum tomatoes and bring the sauce to a simmer. Taste test the sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce simmer on low and move to the next step.

Assembling the baked ziti with meatballs

  • While the sauce is simmering bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the ziti pasta until 2 minutes less than al dente.
  • Prepare a 9 by 13 baking dish by placing a 1/4 inch thick layer of sauce on the bottom.
  • Place 4 cups of sauce into a large bowl and add the pasta. Also, add the meatballs, ricotta, Pecorino Romano, and 3/4 of the shredded mozzarella. Mix well.
  • Pour the pasta into the baking dish. Top with a thin layer of sauce and the remaining mozzarella. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned on top. For extra color broil for 1-2 more minutes but watch carefully! Wait at least 10 minutes before eating so that the pasta settles. Enjoy!



  • Makes 6 large or 8 moderate-sized portions.
  • Undercook the pasta! Fully boiled pasta will become mushy after baking for another 30 minutes, so shoot for a bit firmer than al dente or about 2 minutes less than the box instructions.
  • Put a hefty layer of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish to avoid sticking.
  • Bake the pasta until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned on top.  For extra color, broil for 1-2 minutes, but watch very carefully to avoid burning.
  • Leftover sauce can be saved or served on the side or used for bread dipping.


Calories: 903kcal | Carbohydrates: 62.9g | Protein: 62.5g | Fat: 44.7g | Saturated Fat: 20.8g | Cholesterol: 221mg | Sodium: 1187mg | Potassium: 570mg | Fiber: 2.4g | Sugar: 11g | Calcium: 669mg | Iron: 11mg