September 7, 2021

Healthy Baked Ziti

This Healthy Baked Ziti Pasta is made with just a few simple ingredients and comes together quickly. It’s a delicious weeknight meal that serves a crowd with plenty of leftovers!

baked ziti in casserole dish

Ok, what’s are your ultimate go-to comfort foods? I have few things on my list and this hearty baked pasta casserole is one of them for sure!

There’s just something about baked ziti that always hits the spot. Thankfully, my healthier version of the classic is made with just a few simple ingredients and comes together with minimal fuss.

This is one of those “last minute” recipes that I make when I’m not sure what to make for dinner. It’s so easy to make and even easier to customize with what ever protein and veggies you have on hand.

Plus, the leftovers are incredible which means one night of cooking turns into dinner for two nights. My kind of recipe!

More Pasta Recipes You’ll Love

Sausage and Broccoli Pasta

Grilled Shrimp and Orzo

Pesto Turkey Meatballs

Italian Pasta Salad

Healthy Spaghetti Squash Bolognese

baked ziti ingredients

Baked Ziti Ingredients

Ziti: this recipe uses twelve ounces of your favorite ziti pasta.

Ground Beef & Italian Sausage: for the most flavor, we’re using a combination of both ground beef and Italian sausage.

Garlic & Onion: fresh minced garlic and yellow onion help to add even more deep flavor to the ziti sauce.

Seasoning: this recipe uses a combination of Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, and a bay leaf.

Marinara Sauce: we’re keeping things easy and using jarred marinara sauce in this recipe.

Cheese: a combination of mozzarella and parmesan add all that cheesy goodness.

Fresh Basil: a must-have to finish off the baked ziti.

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Pasta – if you don’t have ziti don’t fret! I’ve made this recipe with both penne pasta and fusilli pasta and it turns out great every time.
  • Protein – feel free to use whatever ground meat you like in this recipe. Ground turkey or ground Italian chicken sausage are both great options.
  • Cheese – parmesan is delicious in this recipe but you could also use pecorino Romano instead. Using a shredded Italian blend of cheeses instead of just mozzarella would also be delicious!
  • Veggies – want to increase the veggie content in this casserole? go for it! I love adding chopped spinach, zucchini, mushrooms, and even diced bell peppers to my baked ziti. I also love adding in a big handful of fresh chopped basil for extra yumminess.

Helpful Kitchen Tools

Baking dish

Colander

Large pot

Sharp knife

Measuring cups and spoons

baked ziti sauce

How to Make This Healthy Baked Pasta Casserole

Step One: Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and greasing a 9×13 inch baking dish with a little oil.

Step Two: Next, heat a large pot over medium-high heat. When the pot is hot, add in the olive oil, and then add the ground beef and Italian sausage. As the ground beef and sausage brown, break the meat up as it cooks.

Step Three: When the meat has browned, add minced garlic, diced onion, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Cook everything together until the onion starts to become tender.

Step Four: Next, add the dried bay leaf and marinara sauce to the pot and stir until everything is well combined. Lower the heat to low, cover, and let the sauce simmer while you prepare the pasta.

Step Five: To prepare the pasta, bring a large pot of water with 2 teaspoons of salt to a boil over high heat. Once the water has started to boil, add the pasta. Cook according to the package directions for al dente and stir the pasta occasionally. When the pasta is finished cooking, use a colander to drain the water, and then transfer her to the casserole dish.

Step Six: Remove the bay leaf from the sauce and then pour it over the pasta in the casserole dish. Add the parmesan cheese to the pasta and stir until the pasta, meat sauce, and cheese are well combined.

Step Seven: Top the pasta with shredded mozzarella cheese and then cover the casserole dish with foil. Bake the ziti for twenty to twenty-five minutes until the casserole is hot and the sauce is bubbly around the edges.

Step Eight: Remove the foil from dish and let it bake for another ten minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and beginning to brown. Garnish the baked ziti with plenty of fresh basil before serving and enjoy!

baked zit in casserole dish

Can I make this recipe gluten free?

Yes! Feel free to use your favorite gluten free pasta for this recipe. Just cook it according to the package directions before adding it to the casserole dish.

Can I make this dairy free?

Yes! There are several vegan cheese options on the market now so feel free to use your favorite substitutes for parmesan and mozzarella in this recipe.

baked ziti on a plate

How to Serve

I love serving this casserole with plenty of veggies on the side.

Here are a few of my favorites:

How to Store

Store the ziti in the fridge, well covered, for up to three to four days.

baked ziti in casserole dish

I hope you give this Healthy Baked Ziti a try! It’s the perfect hearty weeknight dinner.

If you do give this recipe a try, I want to know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @allthehealthythings on INSTAGRAM. Your reviews help support All the Healthy Things and make it possible for me to continue to create the recipes you know and love.

Print

Healthy Baked Ziti

  • Author: Ashlea Carver
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian American
  • Diet: Gluten Free
/
Scale:
  • Author: Ashlea Carver
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian American
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Ingredients

  • 12 oz ziti pasta (or penne if you can’t find ziti)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground Italian sausage
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 32 oz marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • fresh basil, for garnish

Method

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a 9×13 casserole dish lightly with oil.
  3. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. When the pot is hot, add the olive oil, and then add the ground beef and Italian sausage. Brown the meat, breaking it up as it cooks.
  4. When the meat has browned, add in the minced garlic, diced onion, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Cook until the onion starts to become tender.
  5. Next, add the dried bay leaf and marinara sauce to the pot and stir until well combined. Lower the heat to low, cover, and let the sauce simmer while you prepare the pasta.
  6. To prepare the pasta: bring a large pot of water with 2 teaspoons of salt to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta. Cook according to the package directions for al dente, stirring occasionally. When the pasta is finished cooking, use a colander to drain it and then add to your prepared casserole dish.
  7. Remove the bay leaf from the sauce and pour over the pasta in the casserole dish. Add the parmesan cheese and stir until the pasta and sauce are well combined.
  8. Top the pasta with mozzarella cheese. Cover the pasta with foil and bake for 20 minutes until sauce is bubbly around the sides of the casserole dish. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes until the cheese is melty and starting to brown.
  9. Garnish with fresh basil before serving and enjoy!

Notes

!!

Optional: add 3 cups fresh, chopped spinach to the sauce before pouring it over the pasta

Keywords: healthy baked ziti, healthy baked ziti recipe, how to make a healthy baked ziti, healthy baked pasta casserole

 

Recipe by: Ashlea Carver / All the Healthy Things | Photography by: Eat Love Eats

This recipe was originally published November 24, 2019 and updated September 7, 2021.

This post contains affiliate links.

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Recipe rating

    13 comments
  1. Easy and delicious!! Next time I want to try the suggestion about the chopped spinach in the sauce, that’s a great idea

  2. I just made this for a family dinner with my parents. It was delicious! I added in the spinach and I’ll definitely be making this again. 😊

  3. So easy and delicious!! My picky eating daughter inhaled it! I used chicken sausage and ground turkey. Great Sunday dinner! Thank you!

    • Hi, Susan! you can find the calorie count in the nutrition facts in the recipe card at the bottom of the post. Hope you love the recipe!

  4. The images of this baked pasta are making my mouth water! I agree that everyone is going to love this dish and it best to make this dish for any parties or occasions. I am really very privileged to come across your article and get this recipe. I am sure that my children will definitely love this recipe. Thank you.

  5. I am excited to make this for a friend who can’t eat gluten. Can I make this in advance but not bake it until the next evening?

    • Hi Melisa, You can make it in advance and then assemble everything the next day! Thanks for your question!

  6. Delicious! I will definitely be making this again! I didn’t have Italian sausage this time, so I left it out and added some bell pepper instead. I love that this recipe is forgiving when I don’t have all the exact ingredients.

  7. I made this last night and it was delicious! Just wanted to let you know you list Italian sausage in the ingredients but don’t mention it in the directions. I just figured you brown it with the ground beef but wanted to let you know. Also you say 3 spinach chopped. I assumed you meant 3 cups. Thank you for such a great dish!

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