Easy Classic Baked Ziti (Meat Sauce)

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Classic Baked Ziti is Italian comfort food at its best. This is an easy recipe that will make a regular appearance on your monthly dinner menu. It’s the perfect dish for your pasta night.

Pin Classic Baked Ziti to make later.

Overhead shot of baked ziti in a casserole dish.

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My Maternal Grandparents came to America from Italy in the early 20th century so I come by loving Italian food naturally. Italian food translates to comfort food for many people. This classic ziti recipe is pure comfort food.

What You Need To Make Baked Ziti

  • Ziti Pasta
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Ground Beef
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Pasta Water
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
Pasta sauce with ground beef in a skillet with a wooden spatula on the side.

How to Make Baked Ziti

The first step is to cook the ground beef with the onions and garlic. You want the beef browned, the garlic fragrant, and the onions translucent. Keep an eye on the mixture as you don’t want the garlic to burn.

While that is cooking, start the pasta. You want it al dente since the dish will be baked and the pasta will cook a little bit more.

When making this dish, be sure to use a large sauté pan or skillet, or your mixture may overflow.

Use a large baking dish, at least 9 x 13, when transferring from the sauté pan or skillet. I use my oval baking dish

A serving of baked ziti on a white plate.

What is the Purpose of Adding Pasta Water to Sauce?

The salty, starchy water not only adds great flavor but helps glue the pasta and sauce together. It will also help thicken the sauce. 

What Can I Serve with Baked Ziti?

This ziti recipe is a meal in itself but I do like to serve a nice fresh garden salad and garlic bread or easy garlic knots. Did you know you can make hot dog bun garlic bread? It’s super easy!

After dinner serve my Italian cream cake with nutty cream cheese frosting or Italian almond cookies for dessert.

This is a heavier meal so you could always go with a lighter dessert such as a gelato, sorbet, or ice. Don’t forget a cappuccino or latte, hot or iced. 

No matter what you serve for dessert, be sure to offer coffee with it. It’s always a nice touch and welcomed if wine or cocktails have been a part of the evening.

Baked Ziti mixture in a skillet.

What Wine Goes with Baked Ziti?

A Chianti would be my first choice because, after all, it’s an Italian wine. As are Sangiovese and Montepulciano. A Pinot Noir would be another good choice.

I am an advocate for drinking what you like so if you prefer a bold Cabernet Sauvignon or a milder Merlot, they will also work. 

If you’ve never had an Italian wine with Italian food, you do need to try that just once.

Although I didn’t hand make this pasta for the classic baked ziti and the recipe uses your favorite jarred pasta sauce it is delicious.

You certainly could make your own sauce and use it here. I serve some sauce on the side for anyone who would like more along with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Baked Ziti Twitter Image

What is the Best Way to Store Leftover Ziti?

Refrigerate leftovers and reheat in the oven, not the microwave. It will heat more evenly if you do it in the oven.

I mean, in a pinch you can reheat it in the microwave. I like to put a damp paper towel over the ziti to keep it from drying out. I start with microwaving it for about 2 minutes and add more time as needed.

But the oven is really the best way to go. Add a little more sauce if you have it. Reheat in the oven to 300 degrees F for about 15 to 20 minutes. Check the temperature and adjust the heating time if necessary.

This baked ziti is a very budget-friendly dish. Pasta, ground beef, and sauce are economical, and if you buy blocks of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses it’s cheaper than buying pre-shredded.

This baked ziti served my family of four for dinner with enough leftovers for another meal and/ or lunch too. To save a bit more money and omit the beef try a vegetarian baked ziti for Meatless Monday.

Did you make this recipe? If so, please leave a comment and 5-star review on the recipe card below. If you really love this recipe, please share it on your social media!

Classic Baked Ziti

Baked ziti is Italian comfort food at its finest.
5 from 31 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time55 minutes
Total Time1 hour 10 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6 – 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ziti
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 6 cups meatless spaghetti sauce divided
  • 1 cup pasta water reserved from draining ziti
  • 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Slightly undercook ziti.
  • Drain reserving 1 cup of pasta water, cover and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • In large skillet over medium heat, cook beef, onion and garlic; stirring frequently 6 to 8 minutes or until beef is browned. Drain fat.
  • Stir in 5 cups spaghetti sauce and reserved pasta water. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Mix the meat/sauce mixture with ziti.
  • Spoon ½ of ziti mixture into 13x9x2" baking dish. Sprinkle with Mozzarella and ½ of Parmesan cheese.
  • Top with remaining ziti mixture and remaining 1 cup spaghetti sauce. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until heated through.

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11 Comments

  1. We love baked ziti, Ellen. It’s been too long since I’ve made it, and the whole family loves it! This is a great recipe! I agree about garlic bread and a nice salad being perfect to serve with it!

  2. This sounds like a delicious recipe and real comfort food too! I love how pasta bakes have such great leftovers and are easy to reheat the next day too. Thanks for sharing with #CookOnceEatTwice!

5 from 31 votes (31 ratings without comment)

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