This meatless baked ziti is warm and comforting, has a cheesy interior and perfectly golden top, and is made with a from scratch tomato sauce.
Baked ziti has always been on my list of last-minute, always satisfying dinners for when I need a little comfort food but don't have too many ingredients on hand.
This recipe takes care of all of those things. The ingredients are mostly pantry staples, it's super simple, and it includes a quick homemade sauce which keeps it lighter. Plus it's meatless if you're looking for that type of meal!
If you're looking for another red sauce recipe, be sure to try our Four Cheese Pasta Cheesecake Factory Copycat, or if you're in the mood for another cheesy option, be sure to check out our Soft Pretzels with Parmesan and Hard Cider Cheese.
Why You'll Love this Meatless Baked Ziti
It has an easy homemade sauce. Don't get me wrong, I do love a good quality jarred marinara sauce, but they are often expensive and full of extra ingredients which aren't always needed. This from scratch version is so delicious!
It's a quick meal that is super comforting. If you're in the mood for a satisfying dish that you can make at home, this cheesy pasta dish is perfect.
The crispy cheese! Is there anything better than crispy baked cheese? This baked ziti ends up with a bubbling golden top which might be the best part.
Ingredients for this Baked Ziti
One of my favorite parts of this baked ziti is the simple list of ingredients. Other than maybe the cheeses, there's a good chance you might already have a lot of these on hand!
- Olive oil - A base for the sauce.
- Garlic - Not an overpowering amount but a little to add that classic flavor to the sauce.
- Crushed red pepper - I used a fair amount in this recipe to add some heat, but you can also reduce the amount or omit it completely.
- Tomato sauce - Canned tomato sauce is the perfectly thick tomato ingredient for this from scratch baked ziti sauce.
- Dried basil - I like to include dried basil in the sauce as it holds up while baked.
- Ziti - My personal favorite pasta shape for baked ziti, but you could also use rigatoni, penne, or any other short pasta shape.
- Fontina - A great cheese with a little extra flavor that melts into the sauce.
- Parmesan - Adds some sharpness to the cheese combination.
- Mozzarella - This recipe uses both cubed and shredded mozzarella to ensure maximum cheesy and golden goodness.
- Fresh basil - Nothing like topping a baked ziti with a little fresh basil to pair with the other flavors.
See recipe card below for quantities.
Step by Step Instructions
This baked pasta dish is very easy and only has about 20 minutes of preparation time.
STEP 1: Preheat the oven and prepare baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 3.5-quart circular or 9x13 rectangular baking dish.
STEP 2: Start the sauce. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper, stirring until garlic is fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add sauce, kosher salt, black pepper, and dried basil. Stir to combine and simmer over low-medium heat while you make the pasta.
STEP 3: Make the pasta. Cook pasta until slightly shy of al dente (as it will continue to cook in the oven). Drain pasta and return to pot.
STEP 4: Add some of the cheese and the pasta to the sauce. Add fontina and ¼ cup of parmesan to sauce, stirring to combine. Add pasta and stir liberally to ensure sauce is evenly distributed.
STEP 5: Assemble the baked ziti. Pour half of pasta into dish, then add half of cubed mozzarella, spreading evenly over pasta. Repeat with other half of pasta and mozzarella. Top with shredded mozzarella and remaining parmesan, then sprinkle with additional salt and pepper.
STEP 6: Bake the baked ziti. Bake for 30 minutes uncovered or until cheese is golden and sauce is bubbling. Serve immediately, topped with fresh basil.
Tips for Making this Meatless Baked Ziti
- Be careful not to overcook the pasta as it will continue to cook in the oven. When making baked ziti I actually like to cook the pasta until it is just shy of al dente.
- I definitely recommend layering the pasta and cheeses to ensure that the inside is as perfectly cheesy as the top layer.
- This baked ziti is best when cooked until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is golden but not dried.
Can I use a pre-made jarred sauce?
You can but I recommend making the sauce in this recipe as it uses canned tomatoes which makes it extra easy and simple.
Do I need all three cheeses?
I think the mozzarella is key for its great melting quality, and I love the sharpness the parmesan adds, but if you don't have fontina it could be skipped or substituted with additional mozzarella.
Is this baked ziti filling even though it is meatless?
Absolutely! This meatless baked pasta dish is a hearty and satisfying meal on its own.
Storing and Freezing
This recipe is best served right away, but can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days and reheated in the oven prior to serving. You can also reheat it in the microwave if you are reheating a smaller portion or you're in a hurry.
This baked ziti can also be stored in the freezer for 1-2 months. To reheat, thaw the baked ziti in the refrigerator then reheat in the oven or microwave.
If you make this recipe we would absolutely love if you left a star review and/or comment! Also, make sure to tag us on Instagram @doublethespoonfuls so we can see what you create.
Meatless Baked Ziti
- 2 teaspoons olive oil extra virgin
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons basil dried
- 1 pound ziti or other short pasta shape
- ½ cup fontina shredded
- ½ cup parmesan shredded, divided
- ½ cup mozzarella cubed, divided
- 1 cup mozzarella shredded
- basil fresh, for topping
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 3.5-quart circular or 9x13 rectangular baking dish.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper, stirring until garlic is fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add sauce, kosher salt, black pepper, and dried basil. Stir to combine and simmer over low-medium heat while you make the pasta.2 teaspoons olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, 2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, 2 teaspoons basil
- Cook pasta until slightly shy of al dente (as it will continue to cook in the oven). Drain pasta and return to pot.1 pound ziti
- Add fontina and ¼ cup of parmesan to sauce, stirring to combine. Add pasta and stir liberally to ensure sauce is evenly distributed.½ cup fontina, ½ cup parmesan
- Pour half of pasta into dish, then add half of cubed mozzarella, spreading evenly over pasta. Repeat with other half of pasta and mozzarella. Top with shredded mozzarella and remaining parmesan, then sprinkle with additional salt and pepper.½ cup mozzarella, 1 cup mozzarella, ½ cup parmesan
- Bake for 30 minutes uncovered or until cheese is golden and sauce is bubbling. Serve immediately, topped with fresh basil.basil