This Baked Ziti is a classic comfort food filled with pasta, homemade bolognese, and tons of ooey gooey cheese.
Al denté pasta, hearty bolognese, creamy sour cream, and ooey gooey cheese . . . this baked ziti has it ALL going on.
What is baked ziti?
Baked ziti is an Italian American comfort food classic! It’s essentially a casserole made up of cooked pasta, sauce, and cheese.
Today, we’re making our our homemade pasta sauce (I used my turkey bolognese recipe, but swapped the turkey for beef) and adding a secret ingredient: sour cream!
What is the difference between lasagna and baked ziti?
Although these two dishes do have some similarities, they are different!
Lasagna is a casserole with alternating layers of lasagna pasta, cheese, sauce, and fillings. Baked ziti, on the other hand, is a casserole of cooked ziti pasta, sauce, and cheese.
The primary difference between the two is that baked ziti ingredients are all mixed together before being baked in a casserole dish while lasagna ingredients are in separate layers.
- Turkey Bolognese – I whip up a batch of my homemade healthy turkey bolognese (but swap the turkey for beef in this recipe) and it’s so yummy! Feel free to use your favorite store-bought bolognese, if preferred.
- Cooked Ziti Pasta – a tubular pasta, similar to penne but shorter, thicker, and cut straight on the ends. If you can’t find ziti, penne will work as well!
- Provolone Cheese, Sour Cream, and Mozzarella Cheese – layered overtop the pasta/bolognese mixture and baked into a delicious, creamy, and cheesy casserole topping.
- Parmesan Cheese – finishes off the casserole for some extra cheesiness.
How to make
This recipe really couldn’t be easier and it’s loved by the whole family!
- Make a batch of turkey bolognese and cook your ziti pasta.
- In a large bowl, toss your pasta and bolognese.
- Spread half of the mixture evenly into a greased baking dish.
- Layer with sliced provolone cheese, sour cream, and mozzarella. Repeat with the rest of the pasta, provolone, sour cream, and mozzarella then top with grated parmesan cheese.
- Bake until the cheese is melted then serve and enjoy!
How long to cook
Bake the assembled casserole in a preheated 350ºF oven for 30 minutes. This will ensure that everything is piping hot with perfectly cooked noodles.
Should you cover baked ziti in the oven?
It’s usually not necessary. However, if you do notice that the top of the casserole is getting brown before the casserole fully warmed through, cover it with foil for the remainder of the time so it can all cook more evenly!
What meat to use
You can use ground beef, ground pork, italian sausage, ground turkey, or even ground chicken in this baked ziti.
I love to use my healthy turkey bolognese for this recipe, but I swap the turkey for beef to keep it slightly more traditional. It’s super easy (just 15 minutes of prep) and adds so much texture and flavor to the casserole! Definitely worth the bit of extra time it takes to whip up. 🙂
However, if homemade bolognese isn’t your thing, feel free to pair any ground meat (Italian sausage, ground beef, ground chicken, etc.) with your favorite red sauce and some extra Italian seasoning!
What cheese to use
We’re using a combination of mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan cheese. The mozzarella is ooey gooey, the provolone is stringy, and the parmesan adds a great saltiness. I love all of their flavors and textures paired with the creamy tanginess of the sour cream!
Want to mix it up? Try these swaps:
- Mozzarella –> monterey jack or pepperjack
- Provolone –> swiss
- Sour cream –> ricotta, cottage cheese, cream cheese, or mascarpone
- Parmesan –> pecorino romano or asiago
Let’s be honest…no cheese will be bad. 😉
- Cook the pasta before putting it in the casserole. The pasta will not cook fully in the oven. Make sure you cook it as directed first.
- Cook your pasta slightly less than al dente. Slightly undercooked pasta ensures that it doesn’t overcook when you bake it in the casserole.
- Use plenty of sauce. Make sure your pasta is fully coated with the turkey bolognese sauce
- Use lean meat. I use 93/7 ground beef so the bolognese isn’t too greasy.
What to serve with baked ziti
Here are some of my favorite side dishes to serve alongside this homemade baked ziti!
How to make ahead of time
If you want to whip this up ahead of time, prepare as directed then, before baking, store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
To bake, defrost overnight in the refrigerator if frozen then bake as directed. This may add 5-10 minutes of cook time so make sure the casserole is cooked all the way through before serving.
How to store
Store baked leftovers in the refrigerator for 3-5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To reheat, thaw in the fridge if frozen then warm in the microwave or oven.
Equipment for this recipe
- 1 batch turkey bolognese I used lean ground beef instead of turkey*
- 1 pound ziti pasta
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 (8 oz) package provolone cheese slices mine contained 12 slices
- 1 (16 oz) container sour cream
- 1 (8 oz) block mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- fresh basil optional as a garnish
- Make bolognese according to recipe directions. I like making this a day in advance to save time.
- Cook pasta 1 minute less than al dente, according to box directions.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a deep 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a very large bowl, toss the pasta and bolognese together until well combined.
- Taste and re-season, if necessary.
- Spread 1/2 of the ziti evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
- Layer with 1/2 of the provolone cheese slices.
- Dollop then spread out 1/2 of the sour cream on top of the cheese.
- Sprinkle with 1/2 of the mozzarella.
- Repeat the layers.
- Top with grated parmesan. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the cheeses are melted.
- Serve and enjoy!
*Note: Nutrition information is estimated and varies based on products used.