Baked ziti with meat is one of the most indulgent Italian pasta recipes in my repertoire! There’s just something about the way that little ziti pasta is layered into ricotta cheese surrounded by plenty of that warm bubbling marinara meat mixture that really hits the spot.
This recipe is one of the most favored dishes at my house and it’s the perfect meal to break up all that holiday cuisine. It’s just the flavor-intense dinner you need to regroup and reset. Plus, it’s ideal for potlucks and friendly get-togethers when you need a bring along!
What I Love About Baked Ziti With Meat Recipe
This baked ziti with meat is quite possibly the perfect family dinner. All it needs is a crisp vinaigrette salad and a little bread to sop up all that decadent meat sauce at the bottom of your plate! With plenty of meat, pasta, veggies, and cheese – I think it covers all the major food groups.
- Absolutely decadent and delicious
- Plenty of savory cheesy goodness
- Wholesome protein-heavy nutrition
- The perfect meal to break up holiday cuisine
- Ideal to bring along for get-togethers
Baked Ziti With Meat Ingredients
One of the best things about this amazing baked ziti with meat recipe is that it doesn’t require any crazy tools or ingredients. It comes together relatively quickly with wholesome familiar ingredients. Here’s a little about the mainstays.
- Meat – I like to use a combination of ground beef and sausage in this baked ziti with meat recipe. It gives the dish more savory layers of yummy flavor that work to form one cohesive dish.
- Veggies – You’ll need to sauté your veggies for your meat sauce. I know you hear that a lot, but it is vital! Sautéing your veggies gets rid of that harsh bite and brings out their mellow balanced flavors.
- Pasta – Try not to overcook your ziti pasta or you’ll end up with a mushy mess when it comes out of the oven. Salt it well and boil it just until al dente, then get it into the marinara immediately after draining.
- Marinara – Of course homemade marinara tastes best in this baked ziti with meat but jarred marinara is convenient and works just fine. If you opt for the jar, spring for the kind you really like. It’s a big part of this dish and so totally worth it!
- Cheese – You’ve got your ricotta mixture, your parmesan, and your mozzarella. The creamy decadent combination of white cheeses really takes this dish to the next level! You’re all-in now.
- Secret Ingredient – The secret ingredient in this baked ziti with meat recipe is nutmeg. It goes into the ricotta mixture and it changes everything about this dish! Just be sure not to be too heavy-handed.
- Build It: Making this is a bit like building a lasagna. It’s more of a craft than anything else! Just remember that there are three main component layers and they’ll have to be crafted separately before they can be put together to make the perfect dish. I know it’s tempting to just mix it all up and toss it in a dish, but you don’t want to do that. Crafting the layers, even loosely, will give you that incredible crave-worthy work of art you’re after.
- Sauce It: First, be sure to sauce your pasta immediately after draining. This allows you to take advantage of its starchy characteristic and put it to work for you. The hot starch helps the sauce stick to the ziti pasta and evenly coat each noodle for a perfectly balanced baked ziti with meat recipe.
Storing + Freezing + Make-Ahead
This mouth-watering baked ziti with meat recipe will call to every hungry tummy within smelling distance. If you do happen to have leftovers, they’ll need to go into the fridge in a covered container. It’s best not to store this one in a bag.
- How Long Can You Keep This? If stored properly, your baked ziti will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 4 days. I doubt it’ll last that long without being sacrificed for a midday snack but if it does, then those awesome flavors will continue to develop.
- Can You Freeze This? Unfortunately, I don’t recommend freezing this baked ziti with meat. The pasta and the cheese sauce are both finicky in freezing temperatures, to say the least. This is just one of those dishes that is best enjoyed fresh.
- Make-Ahead Tips: If meal prep is just your thing, you can always make the meat sauce ahead of time and freeze it until you’re ready to make your dish. I like to whip up a batch of this baked ziti after we’ve had holiday leftovers a couple of times. It usually gets gobbled up and I’m lucky if there’s enough left for a couple of lunches the next day.
- Food Safety: If you’d like more info on food safety check out this link.
This is delicious with my fully loaded Mediterranean salad, Italian inspired roasted green beans with pancetta and shallots, simple roasted peppers, super easy roasted broccoli, garlic bread, or olive garden breadsticks.
How To Make Baked Ziti With Meat
- Cook the meat sauce mixture.
- Assemble: Layer half of the ziti, spread all the ricotta mixture, sprinkle half the: parmesan, mozzarella and sauce
- Spread the remaining ziti, then the remaining sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan.
- Bake and serve.
***See the full instructions below.
This baked ziti with meat is absolutely awesome just like it is and I recommend at least trying it before making changes. However, there are a few subtle ways you can tweak this recipe for a new flavor twist. Here are a couple of suggestions.
- Make it with meatballs instead of meat sauce. It’s really delicious this way. Check out my baked ziti with mini meatballs.
- Try using all sausage or no sausage at all.
- Lose the meat and make it vegetarian.
- Switch out the mozzarella for different cheeses like provolone.
More Baked Pasta Recipes
- Stuffed Shells
- Million Dollar Spaghetti
- Chicken Spaghetti Casserole
- Baked Spaghetti with Cream Cheese
- Buffalo Chicken Lasagna
- Chicken Lasagna
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Baked Ziti With Meat
- 1 pound ground beef, 80/20
- 1/2 pound Italian sausage
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 teaspoons Italian seasoning divided
- 48 ounces homemade marinara sauce, or 2 (24 ounce) jars-divided
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 (15-ounce) container ricotta
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, optional
- 1 cup Parmesan,-divided grated
- 2 cups Mozzarella, -divided shredded
- 16 ounces ziti
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9X13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
- In a large pot over medium-high heat, add the beef and sausage and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown mixture, crumbling into large pieces. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of drippings from pot. If you don't have that amount remaining, add olive oil to make up the difference.
- Add the onion, garlic, and 3 teaspoons Italian seasoning and saute, over medium-high heat, until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Return beef and sausage to the pot. Add half of the marinara sauce (2 cups or 1 jar), water, and heavy cream to the onion and meat, turn the heat to low and heat through; set aside.
- Meanwhile, bring another large pot of water, with 1 tablespoon of salt, to a boil. Cook ziti according to the package instructions. Drain well, then return pasta to original pot off the heat, and add the remaining half (2 cups or 1 jar) of marinara sauce to pasta and combine; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, egg, remaining 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, and nutmeg; set aside.
- Spoon a thin layer, about 1 cup of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9X13 inch baking dish. Pour half the ziti in the baking dish. Spread all the ricotta mixture over ziti, then sprinkle half the parmesan, half the mozzarella, and half the sauce.
- Spread the remaining ziti, then the remaining sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Bake in preheated oven, uncovered 25-30 minutes or until cheese is golden and sauce is bubbly.
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