Need a meal idea that's cheap, filling, and picky-eater approved? This baked ziti recipe checks all the boxes. Make one for tonight and another to freeze for later!

homemade baked ziti, from Shelf Cooking

There aren't many things we love more than a one-dish dinner that's big enough to feed a crowd! And because this baked ziti is meatless, it's one of the cheapest things you can make. Hey, hey, meatless Monday!

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Do you know what else is great about this recipe? It's versatile with a capital “V” and doesn't require any weird ingredients. We'll show you how to throw this together in minutes using only ingredients you already have in your kitchen. This recipe is a shelf cooking dream, so let's do this!


cheese garlic bread for baked ziti side, from Shelf Cooking

Truth be told, you can serve this baked ziti on its own without any complaints, but if you're looking to sneak in a few extra veggies or carb load, then here are some sides to try:

  • Cheesy Garlic Bread – Okay, confession time. Sometimes we make a meal out of this cheesy garlic bread. It's that good! Serve it up alongside a big heaping portion of this baked ziti recipe, and enjoy.
  • Spinach and Strawberry Salad – Here's one of our favorite ways to use up strawberries before they go bad! Throw together this spinach salad from Fun Cheap or Free. It's a perfect, colorful, and delicious side for pasta night.
  • Soup – We love making a quick batch of veggie soup to serve with this ziti. You can literally throw all the veggies, broth, and seasonings you have into one pot and let the magic happen. If you're new to making soup from scratch, learn how. It's soup-er easy!
  • Rustic Bread – We're obsessed with this rustic bread and make it every chance we get! The leftovers make great sandwiches.
  • Steamed Garlic Green Beans – When in doubt, reach for the green beans! We steam ours with butter, garlic, and bacon bits. The flavors and the crunch…Mmmmm! So good!

Okay, now that you're all set on sides, let's start talking about that recipe! First up, let's cover some simple ways to modify this recipe.


homemade sauce for baked ziti, from Shelf Cooking

We've all been there. It's time to make your favorite recipe for dinner, you've been looking forward to it all week, and then it hits you. You're missing the key ingredient. Noooo! Well, if you find yourself missing an ingredient or two for this baked ziti, here's what you can do:

  • Ziti Substitute – The beautiful thing about pasta is it's pretty easy to use whatever you've got! If you don't have ziti in your pantry, try another short, tube-shaped pasta. Try penne!
  • Diced Tomatoes – If you don't have canned tomatoes, dice up a fresh tomato or two. It might taste even better (if that's possible).
  • Tomato Sauce – All out of the jarred or canned kind? You can make your own tomato paste to use in this recipe!
  • Cottage Cheese – Cottage cheese is one of those polarizing foods, so if you hate it, you probably don't have any on hand. That's okay! Try ricotta. Or, for a different twist on this recipe, use cream cheese. We suggest the garden veggie or garlic herb flavor for a creamy, dreamy sauce.
  • Cornstarch Substitute – Why do we always run out of cornstarch? It's one of life's great mysteries. But, hey, next time it happens to you, you'll know what to do. Just make your own roux using equal parts butter (or oil) and all-purpose flour. Whisk over medium heat for about 2-minutes, or until a paste begins to form.

Now you're all set! Just one last thing to cover before we share this drool-worthy recipe. We like to make this dish meatless because it's super cheap, but you can absolutely add some meat to this recipe! Brown, drain, and add some ground beef or sausage for an extra dose of protein. And feel free to toss in some extra fresh herbs if you have them!


We bet the suspense is killing you, so we won't make you wait any longer! It's time to learn how to make the most dang delicious baked ziti we've ever tasted, so get excited, you guys!

homemade baked ziti, from Shelf Cooking

Easy Baked Ziti Recipe

This hearty, filling dish comes together in just a few minutes and bakes up with a nice, bubbly layer of cheese on top. Enjoy!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Cooling Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8


  • 1 lb cottage cheese
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb ziti
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 tsp minced garlic
  • 28 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 14½ oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • ¾ tsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • cups low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella cheese


  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F. Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside. 
  • Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through. Drain pasta and leave it in a colander (do not wash Dutch oven).
  • Meanwhile, heat oil and garlic in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until garlic is fragrant but not brown, about 2 minutes. 
  • Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in ½ cup basil and sugar, then season with salt and pepper.
  • Stir cornstarch into heavy cream in a small bowl; transfer mixture to the now-empty Dutch oven set over medium heat.
  • Bring to simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce, and ¾ cup mozzarella, then stir to combine.
  • Add pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.
  • Transfer pasta mixture to 13- by 9-inch baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle remaining ¾ cup mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan over the top.
  • Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with a little fresh basil, serve, and enjoy!


We highly recommend doubling this recipe! Double wrap your leftovers in foil, label, and freeze for up to 6 months. When you're ready to serve, just thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then bake in the oven per recipe instructions. 
Keyword baked ziti, batch cooking, freezer-friendly

We like keeping a few portions of this ziti in the freezer for our family to enjoy, but it's also the perfect dish to deliver to a friend who's just had a baby, or a neighbor who's just moved to town. Food is pretty much a love language in our opinion, so spread some love!

Hopefully, your family will love this meal as much as ours does! Even our meat-eaters don't complain about this vegetarian dish because it is SO filling.

What's your all-time-favorite pasta dish? Are a lasagna kinda gal or more into spaghetti? Drop a comment below and let us know!

baked ziti in a dish, from Shelf Cooking

Want to try a few more of our favorite Italian dishes?

Bon appetit!