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close-up of a metal spatula with a serving of cheesy baked ziti

Baked Ziti

This baked ziti recipe is a mouthwatering Italian American favorite that has pasta and Italian sausage in tomato sauce along with three kinds of cheese! It's a crowd-pleasing pasta bake that you can easily make ahead of time.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword baked ziti recipe
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8
Calories 738kcal


  • 1 pound uncooked ziti or penne pasta
  • 1 pound Italian sausage meat
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
  • 1 (28 fluid once) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup heavy/whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar see note
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • For serving: fresh chopped parsley and/or basil optional


  • Preheat your oven to 375F and move the rack to the top third of the oven. Boil a salted pot of water and cook the ziti for 2-3 minutes less than package directions indicate. Drain and set aside once it's done.
  • Meanwhile, add the sausage meat and onion to a pot and cook until browned (about 7-10 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes to the pot and cook for about a minute.
  • Stir in the crushed tomatoes, cream, salt & pepper, and sugar. Let it heat through (about 5 minutes).
  • Drain the pasta and add it to the pot. Toss with the sauce.
  • Add half the pasta mixture to a 9x13 casserole dish (spread it out evenly to create your bottom layer).
  • Spoon the ricotta over the pasta for the cheesy middle layer (you don't need to be too neat... I just put dollops here and there).
  • Spoon the remaining pasta into the casserole dish to create an even top layer (I don't stir it).
  • Sprinkle the parmesan and mozzarella over top.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes (or until hot & bubbly), and then broil (watch it closely) to brown the cheese.
  • Serve with some fresh basil and/or parsley if desired.


  • Use either ground sausage meat or buy sausages and take the meat out of the casings. Anything up to about 1.5 pounds will work.
  • The sugar helps enhance the sweetness of the canned tomatoes. You may leave it out if you prefer, but it helps give this recipe that "restaurant quality" taste.
  • If you need to sub the cream (I don't recommend it), I would sub it with a cup of crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, or even marinara (not something like half-and-half or milk because the acid will likely curdle it).
  • Want to skip the ricotta? This recipe will still be delicious without it. 
  • See blog post for more tips, step-by-step photos, and answers to FAQs (including make-ahead tips).
  • Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.


Calories: 738kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 43g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 131mg | Sodium: 1098mg | Potassium: 679mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1095IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 422mg | Iron: 3mg