Four Cheese Baked Ziti

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The BEST Baked Ziti! You’ll not only find four kinds of ooey, gooey cheese atop this tasty pasta dish, but also loads of tomato sauce, Italian sausage, garlic, and Italian seasonings, all of which make this baked ziti one of the most amazing pasta dishes ever. 

For more baked pasta dishes, try my popular posts for Baked Penne, Creamy Red Pepper Pasta, and Baked Ziti with Ricotta and Sausage

overhead serving spoon dipping into the corner of a pan of pasta

When I crave carbs, I crave them HARD. And no bowl of boring pasta is going to do, either. I want all the cheese…ALL THE CHEESE.

Is one cheese enough? Probably. Are four necessary? Probably not. Does that matter when we’re talking pasta? No way! I say it’s not a comforting carb dish until it’s smothered in all the cheeses, garlic, spices, sausage, and tomato sauce. I want to see that cheese pull for a good foot when I dig into it. All this talk of cheese is making me hungry. BRB got some leftover baked ziti in the fridge. 

Why this Recipe Works

I’m back from eating more cheesy baked ziti to remind you why you should make this asap! 

Cheese — I’m just going to say it again and again until you believe me that this is the key to great pasta dishes. Ricotta, parmesan, cream cheese, and mozzarella…I’m dead. 

Simple — Don’t be put off by the number of steps. Can you boil water? Drain pasta? Open a jar of your favorite marinara? Well, then you’re halfway there! This baked pasta dish is very simple to make and bake

Pantry ingredients — No ziti? No problem, any pasta shape will work. As will any of your favorite jarred pasta sauces, Italian spices, and cheeses! Trust me, you can make this with what’s in your pantry probably right now! No sausage? No problem, skip it! 

Amazing leftovers — I can attest to this as I literally just scooped myself a big bowl of leftovers from last night’s feast. Cold, warm, fresh, or leftover, this pasta is the bomb. 

up close red and white pasta on plate with fork

Here’s How you Make it

  • Fill a large pot with water. (Use a pasta pot with a built-in colander if you have it.) Boil the ziti for 7-8 minutes or until just tender. Drain and set aside. 
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking dish. 
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the sausage, breaking it up as you cook it. Cook for about 4-5 minutes, then stir in the garlic, marinara, Italian dressing, and cooked ziti. two side by side images showing cheese mixture in a bowl and pasta with red sauce in baking dish
  • Spread the ziti/sausage mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. 
  • In a bowl, stir together the ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella, parm, and cream cheese. 
  • Drop dollops of the cheese mixture on top of the ziti until the pasta is all covered. 
  • Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella over the top of the cheese dollops, then tent foil over the top of the baking dish, and put in the preheated oven. overhead view of two images showing preparation of baked pasta
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cheese gets bubbly. Then, take the foil off and continue to bake for another 15 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown. 
  • Take the baked ziti out of the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving. 

overhead pasta on white plate with silver fork

Ideas for Customizing this Recipe

  • Try a different pasta if you don’t have ziti. Some good choices include: penne, rotini, fusilli, shells, or radiatori. 
  • If you don’t have all four cheeses, you can try any combo of four or less of the following: parmesan, mozzarella, provolone, ricotta, cream cheese, or any pre-packaged blend. 
  • Substitute ground Italian turkey or chicken sausage instead of pork if you prefer. Or give it a go with a vegetarian sausage. I’ve never tried it but I’m sure it would be delicious!
  • Or skip the meat all together! 
  • If you want to add some veggies to the pasta mixture with or in addition to the sausage, some of my favorite pasta add-ins include mushrooms, diced zucchini, and any color bell pepper. 

serving spoon in ziti pasta inside white casserole dish

 Expert Tips

  • Since this dish includes sausage, I tend to use a non-meat marinara sauce so that the meaty flavors aren’t competing. 
  • Be careful not to overcook the pasta as it will cook again in the sauce as it bakes all together. I stop cooking my pasta when it’s just al dente, or after about 7 minutes. 
  • Keep leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer. Thaw frozen baked ziti in the fridge before heating back up in the oven or microwave. 
  • If you want to double this recipe, I suggest making two pans of this versus one giant pan. It would be easier to cook both in smaller dishes and easier to store leftovers. Plus, this dish can get heavy if you pile on too many things in one dish. 

close up cheesy pasta with fresh basil and fork on plate

More Amazing Pasta Recipes

Did you make this dish? Please rate the recipe below! 

overhead serving spoon dipping into the corner of a pan of pasta

Four Cheese Baked Ziti

You'll not only find four kinds of ooey, gooey cheese atop this tasty pasta dish, but also loads of tomato sauce, Italian sausage, garlic, and Italian seasonings, all of which make this baked ziti one of the most amazing pasta dishes ever. 
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces ziti pasta noodles
  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage
  • 1 26-ounce jar marinara sauce
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning or Herbs de Provence
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella divided

Instructions

  • Fill a large pot with water. Boil pasta 7-8 minutes til just tender. Drain and set pasta aside.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, brown sausage - breaking into small pieces as it cooks - for 4-5 minutes. Stir in ziti noodles, garlic, marinara, and Italian seasoning.
  • Spread ziti mixture into an even layer in the bottom of your prepared pan.
  • In a bowl stir together ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, parmesan, and cream cheese.
  • Drop dollops of the cheese mixture on top of the ziti until covered.
  • Sprinkle remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese over the top, tent with foil, and transfer to preheated oven.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes til cheese is bubbly. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes until cheese begins to brown.
  • Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Notes

  • Since this dish includes sausage, I tend to use a non-meat marinara sauce so that the meaty flavors aren't competing. 
  • Be careful not to overcook the pasta as it will cook again in the sauce as it bakes all together. I stop cooking my pasta when it's just al dente, or after about 7 minutes. 
  • Keep leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer. Thaw frozen baked ziti in the fridge before heating back up in the oven or microwave. 
  • If you want to double this recipe, I suggest making two pans of this versus one giant pan. It would be easier to cook both in smaller dishes and easier to store leftovers. Plus, this dish can get heavy if you pile on too many things in one dish. 

Nutrition

Calories: 624kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 105mg | Sodium: 803mg | Potassium: 360mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 667IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 377mg | Iron: 2mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Tag @cremedelacrumb1 on Instagram and hashtag it #cremedelacrumb!

 

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Comments

5 stars
Hi, when do you add pasta

    They’re called for again in step 3 🙂

In your narrative, you refer to adding italian dressing INSTEAD of italian herbs. I thought you might want to correct this.

5 stars
Thank you for the great recipe! I subbed spaghetti squash for the pasta & used a low-carb marinara. It turned Out awesome!

    That sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing your awesome idea, Heather!

5 stars
Best baked Ziti ever

    Thanks for your feedback!

Great and easy recipe! I didn’t want to grocery shop so i had to use Turkey meatballs instead of sausage, OrEcchiette instead of penne, and cottage cheese instead of ricotta. It was still amazing!

    Happy to hear that your version turned out well!

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