Easy Baked Ziti

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

What do you get when you combine pepperoni, Italian sausage, ziti pasta, and lots of tasty pasta sauce with melted mozzarella cheese? My easy baked ziti recipe is the ultimate Italian-American comfort food.

Spoonful of easy baked ziti.

I make a lot of different dishes at my house. There are the regulars, the ones we love and want to have over and over, and then the new recipes that I whip up from time to time and try out on the family to see if it sticks. I know the folks in my house pretty well so it’s a very rare thing for them to not like something I come up with. But every now and then I happen upon a dish that has everyone taking one bite and then asking if we can have it again the next day. This easy baked ziti recipe has been requested every single supper since the first time I made it.

My goal was to have an incredibly flavorful and saucy ziti that went a little beyond the norm and I am really thrilled with how this one turned out. The family agreed this should be called Killer Ziti and I have to admit that I’ve been wanting it again myself, so I’m making it again tonight. They won out… or maybe I did. I guess in the end, we’d really have to lay the blame on the baked ziti.

Fortunately, I don’t mind because as the name suggests, this is such an easy recipe to make. We just have to brown our Italian sausage with the onion and garlic, then add in the remaining ingredients. This includes ziti pasta, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, and pepperoni.

Now, don’t be alarmed by the large amount of sauce. Because we only partially cook the pasta, it’s going to fully cook in the oven and soak up all that sauce. Place this delectable combination in a baking dish (layered with lots of mozzarella cheese and the aforementioned extra sauce), and bake! It’ll be ready in no time at all, which will please everyone in the household.

The flavorful sauce, ooey-gooey melted cheese, and meat combine to make a stand-out dinner. Like a classic lasagna casserole but easier to make, I hope you give this easy baked ziti a go today!

Ingredients for easy baked ziti.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Pepperoni (FYI, this particular brand of pepperoni seems to have less grease than others)
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Pizza sauce
  • Minced garlic
  • Onion
  • Ziti pasta
  • Italian sausage

How to Make My Easy Baked Ziti Recipe

Cook ziti according to package directions, but only cook it for half of the recommended time.

Drain in a colander and run cold water over it to stop the cooking process.

Cook sausage, onion, and garlic in skillet.

Remove sausage from the casings. To do this, just cut a line down one side with a knife and it will come open and slip off.

Place sausages in a large skillet and add onion and garlic. Saute that over medium-high heat until sausage is nicely brown and has no pink in the middle.

This is my little handy dandy meat chopper thingie. I got mine on Amazon but they are available in a bunch of places. I get a lot of questions whenever I show it and yes, you really do need one!

Add to bowl and add chopped pepperoni.

Pour that into a large bowl (that can handle the heat of it) and add chopped pepperoni.

Add remaining ingredients to bowl and stir together.

Add partially cooked pasta, an entire jar of pizza sauce, and half the jar of spaghetti sauce.

Stir until it is all mixed up really well.

Did I mention that this is a large bowl? Oh yes, I did. If you overlooked that at this point you may be looking for another bowl…

Layer spaghetti sauce, ziti, cheese, ziti, more sauce, and more cheese in baking dish.

Get Layering!

Now put half of the remaining spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 3.5 to 4-quart baking dish (a 9×13 will work great) and place half of your pasta mixture on top of that, spread about a bit.

Sprinkle about a cup or cup and a half of shredded cheese over it.

Add the rest of your mixture, spread the remaining spaghetti sauce on top, and sprinkle with about another cup and a half of cheese.

Place this in a 350 oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until the top is just very lightly brown.

But it doesn’t have to be brown, good and melty after 30 minutes is fine, too.

Spoonful of easy baked ziti.

Now go eat your saucy, flavorful, easy baked ziti.


  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days and simply reheat in the microwave.
  • You can also freeze leftovers for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating in the microwave.

Recipe Notes

  • You can easily substitute the sausage for ground beef, ground pork, or ground turkey.
  • For more flavor, add some seasonings while cooking the meat, like 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning and/or 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs: basil, rosemary, thyme, or oregano work best.
  • While I’m just using mozzarella, many baked ziti recipes use a combination of different types of cheese, like an Italian cheese blend or parmesan cheese/mozzarella/ricotta cheese. The ricotta cheese definitely makes the dish creamier, if that’s what you’re looking for. I’d only add the ricotta to the middle layer though and just top with the parmesan and mozzarella.
  • For heat, add 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Serve with a garnish of fresh basil or fresh parsley.

Recipe FAQs

Are spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce the same thing?

Spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce are similar with slightly different seasonings. Spaghetti sauce also comes with lots of options, like the ragu sauce I’m using or simply a marinara sauce. I recommend using both as the delicious taste speaks for itself, but if you only want to use spaghetti sauce, I’m not going to stop you! And if you want to use my homemade recipes for spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce, I’m also not going to stop you.

Should I cover my baked ziti?

No, you want to cook the baked ziti uncovered to allow the cheese to brown.

Can I substitute ziti for penne pasta?

Yes, you can use penne instead of ziti. However, if you want to do as Italians do, use ziti for baking and penne for creamy pasta dishes. Other kinds of pasta that work are rotini, bowtie, or shell pasta.

What do you serve with baked ziti?

Here are some side dishes to accompany homemade baked ziti, although it’s a hearty and filling main dish as is:

Check out these other pasta dishes:

Slow Cooker Pasta Fagioli

Pesto Chicken Pasta

Slow Cooker Angel Chicken Pasta

Summer Squash Pasta

Baked Feta and Tomato Pasta

Cheese Stuffed Shells (3 Cheeses Included)

Easy Baked Ziti

My easy baked ziti recipe includes pepperoni, Italian sausage, ziti pasta, lots of tasty pasta sauce, and melted mozzarella cheese.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pasta, sausage, ziti
Servings: 4
Calories: 375kcal


  • 1 16-ounce box ziti noodles
  • 1/2 package pepperoni about 1 cup
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 14-ounce jar pizza sauce
  • 1 45-ounce jar spaghetti sauce of your choice
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese


  • Cook ziti according to package directions, cutting cooking time in half. Once half cooked, drain in a colander and pour cold water over to stop the cooking process. Set aside and allow to drain fully.
    1 16-ounce box ziti noodles
  • In a large skillet, place sausage, onion, and garlic. Chop and stir often over medium heat until fully brown and no longer pink in the center. Remove to a large bowl. If there is grease, drain first.
    1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed, 1 medium onion, chopped, 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Coarsely chop pepperoni and add to sausage. Add the entire jar of pizza sauce and 1/2 of the spaghetti sauce along with partially baked pasta. Stir until mixture is well combined.
    1/2 package pepperoni, 1 14-ounce jar pizza sauce, 1 45-ounce jar spaghetti sauce of your choice
  • Spread half of the remaining spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 3.5 or 4-quart baking dish (a 9x13 dish works well too). Top this with 1/2 of the pasta mixture, sprinkle half of the cheese on top, top that with the remaining mixture, and spread the top with the remaining spaghetti sauce. Finish with the remaining cheese.
    3 cups mozzarella cheese
  • Bake at 350, uncovered, for 30 minutes.


Calories: 375kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @southernplate or tag #southernplate!

This recipe is featured in Weekend Potluck

“That ship that you’re waiting on to come in? Maybe you should build it.” 

~unknown wise person

Similar Posts


  1. So excited about this recipie Sounds delicious. Cold weather expected next week the perfect time to treat my family to another one of your fabulous recipes. We’ve been very pleased with every recipie you’ve blessed us with. My husband just loves your chicken a d dumplings (I was very careful not to stir them so they turned out perfectly) Thank you for your wonderful recipes and your heart warming stories. I love when I check my email and there is a southern plate message!

  2. Getting these ingredients after work and half of this will be on the table for supper and the rest going into the freezer. Our Walmart does not carry those Italian Sausages so will have to try Ralphs (Kroger for you). I have seen this before with some of your recipes that have ingredients that we can’t find at our Walmart. We just may need to move to Alabama. : )

    1. I was in Los Angeles filming a television series for a couple of weeks a few years back and on my first day on set the set assistant said “We keep all kinds of snacks and things here but if you need something specific you can always stop by Ralph’s on the way back to your hotel.” I looked at him and said “What is that a friend of yours or something?”. And THAT was my introduction to Ralph’s. 😉
      However, Alabama would be proud as punch to have you!

  3. I just had to laugh when I saw this email as I cook Wednesday night supper at our church and for the Valentine banquet next week I was going to do baked ziti for about 130 people so I was getting ready to start looking for recipes!! I was so glad to get the tips about the 2 kinds of sauces and the large amount of sauce to use as well as just cooking the noodles half way. Do suppose it will still taste good if I do hamburger and pepperoni? I so appreciate your down-to-earth style, delicious recipes and Christian testimony! Thanks

    1. That will be wonderful! If I were cooking for that many I might use less ground beef (save money) and just chop it as small as possible :). I bet Sam’s has big things of tomato sauce that you can then season as pizza sauce. Do you have a copy of my second book, Come Home To Supper? I have a recipe for that in there that would help save money as well when cooking for a large quantity. I’m just brainstorming now because my favorite thing is to cook for an army!

      1. Yes, the one in south Huntsville does as well as Wal-mart. I just ordered the book and look forward to having some new recipes to try 🙂 Thanks!

  4. Hi! If you could reveal what brand of “meat chopper thingie” you bought, I’d really appreciate it! They have some on Amazon that really vary in price…

    1. I have one that is Farberware and one that is Chopstir brand and both are really nice. I think the main thing is to just read and make sure it is heat resistant to at least 400 so you can sit it in your pot and not worry about it melting 🙂 They also have some at WalMart on the kitchen gadget aisle.

      1. I don’t have one of those meat chopper thingies but an old fashioned potato masher works very well for me. I use it any time I’m browning chopped beef or pork and it’s pretty easy.

        1. We have used a potato masher for many, many years. It works great. We found that the masher with the with the up and down “U’s” works best. Hope this makes sense.

  5. This looks beautiful & delicious! Thank you Christy. You are ALWAYS a ray of heavenly sunshine in my day 🙂 God bless you, Jenny

  6. I’m not sure what the difference is between ziti and penne. I assume penne could be substituted? What is the difference between the two? Thanks. Love your site.

  7. This sounds wonderful. I’m heading to the market to pick up the few items I don’t have her at home. Looking forward to this and a salid with garlic toast tonight.
    Thank you for your time and effort to create and post these great recipes.

Leave a Reply

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

Recipe or Post Rating