5-Ingredient Easy Classic Baked Ziti Recipe


This 5-ingredient baked ziti is comfort food at it’s finest! This simple pasta bake makes enough for a crowd (or for a week of meal prep), and is so easy to put together.

5-Ingredient Baked Ziti

This cheesy baked ziti is going to be your new family favorite. It’s kid-friendly (who doesn’t like pasta and cheese!), but elevated enough you don’t have to feel embarrassed serving this to guests. This recipe is also extremely simple. If you can boil noodles and brown ground beef, you can make this. 

I also love how much you get for so little work. This recipe is a go-to for me when I have to bring a main to a potluck. It serves 12 and requires very little work from me. And it tastes so good! That combination of hearty meat, savory pasta sauce, and cheesy mozzarella hits the spot every time.

What’s in 5-Ingredient Baked Ziti?

Simple recipes call for simple ingredients, and this one has a delicious combination of pasta, cheese, and extra protein from the ground beef.

  • Ziti: Ziti pasta has a unique pasta shape — it looks like a fat, short straw. You’ll need 1 pound of uncooked pasta.
  • Spaghetti Sauce: You can use any jarred or homemade pasta sauce for this recipe. You’ll need 24 ounces. 
  • Mozzarella Cheese: I use 3-4 cups of cheese to get that gorgeously melted cheese topping. 
  • Ground Beef: I recommend 85/15 lean ground beef for this recipe. If you use higher fat content, make sure to drain your beef before mixing it in. 
  • Garlic Powder: This is here because no one likes unseasoned ground beef. The garlic powder (and salt and pepper) add that tiny bit of extra flavor that takes this from good to great!
Ingredients for Baked Ziti

Making Easy Baked Ziti

Step 1 | Boil the Pasta

You’ll need a large pot of salted water. Adding salt to the water adds flavor to your noodles, so I always include it when making pasta. You’ll boil the ziti on medium heat until it reaches al dente. You don’t want it to get too soft, as it will soften up even more when you bake it. 

Once the ziti noodles have reached the al dente stage, remove them from the heat and drain them. 

Ziti Pasta

Step 2 | Brown the Beef

You can do this step while your pasta boils. In a frying pan or large skillet, brown your ground beef on medium-high heat. As the beef begins to look brown, add the garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. You can even add red pepper flakes if you want to add a little heat!

Step 3 | Put it Together

In a large bowl, mix the spaghetti sauce, 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, cooked pasta, and browned beef. Pour the mixture into a 9×13 baking dish and cover with the remaining cheese. 

Step 4 | Bake and Serve!

Cover your casserole with aluminum foil and bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes.

This delicious meal is perfect served with fresh herbs like fresh basil or parsley sprinkled on top. You can also add a little grated parmesan cheese to really lean into that cheesy goodness!

5-Ingredient Baked Ziti

Did you know?

  • The name “ziti” comes from the Sicilian word “zita,” which means “bride” or “groom.” It used to be served as the first course at weddings!
  • Ziti belongs to the macaroni family of tubed pasta. This also includes rigatoni and penne.

Substitutions and Variations

While this easy baked ziti recipe is excellent on its own, you can make several substitutions to create a variety of options for this casserole!

  • For the ground beef: You can sub ground turkey or mild Italian sausage. Ground turkey will cut the calorie and fat content, making this a much healthier choice. The Italian sausage simply has a different flavor, allowing you to create your own variation!
  • For the ziti: Rigatoni pasta and penne both work well in this recipe as they have the same general shape as ziti. If you don’t care about looks, just about any pasta other than linguine, spaghetti, and angel hair will work! If you are looking to make this recipe gluten free, simply use gluten-free pasta. You can also use whole wheat pasta to increase your whole grain count. 
  • For the cheese: While I don’t recommend subbing the mozzarella wholesale, doing half and half parmesan and mozzarella works well. You can also use ricotta cheese for the cheese you mix in to the casserole while still covering the top of the baked ziti with mozzarella. 
  • For the garlic powder: If you don’t feel that the garlic powder is enough seasoning for your meat, you can consider adding Italian blend seasoning or red pepper flakes. 
  • Adding veggies: You can add vegetables to the pan when you brown the ground beef. Consider fresh spinach, chopped onions, sliced mushrooms, or diced bell peppers. 


Can I prepare baked ziti in advance and bake it later?

Yes, you can assemble the dish ahead of time and refrigerate it. Bake it when you’re ready, but you may need to adjust the baking time.

How do I prevent the ziti from drying out during baking?

Ensure your sauce is well-coated, and don’t overcook the pasta before baking.

What’s a good side dish to serve with baked ziti?

A simple side salad with a light vinaigrette or some homemade garlic bread makes for a delicious complete meal!

How do I store my left-over baked ziti? 

You can store baked ziti in the fridge for up to one week. Make sure it’s sealed well in an airtight container. 

This recipe freezes well! Just prepare the ziti without baking it, then cover with aluminum foil and place in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

To thaw, place this in the fridge overnight. Pop it in the oven for 25-30 minutes for an easy weeknight dinner!

5-Ingredient Bake Ziti

5-Ingredient Baked Ziti

Make this classic Italian comfort food with just a few simple ingredients!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Cost: $10.00
Servings: 12


  • 1 lb ziti
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 4 cups grated mozzarella
  • 24 oz jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic powder


  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • In a large pot, boil ziti until it reaches al dente.
  • Drain pasta and set aside.
  • In a skillet or frying pan, brown the ground beef. Add garlic powder to ground beef. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Combine spaghetti sauce, ground beef, 2 cups mozzarella, and ziti in a large bowl. Mix until well combined.
  • Pour ziti mixture into a 9×13 pan. Cover with remaining cheese.
  • Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes.
  • Allow ziti to cool for about 10 minutes, then serve.


Nutrition Facts
5-Ingredient Baked Ziti
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Polyunsaturated Fat
Monounsaturated Fat
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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