Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno is always such a hit at the table that it’s in my regular dinner rotation. Who doesn’t love Copycat Olive Garden Recipes? All the great flavors without going out! We’re talking five ooey gooey cheeses! Ricotta, mozzarella, fontina, parmesan, and romano are mixed with ziti pasta and topped with a crunchy, zesty, spiced-up topping!
This is one of those pasta recipes that has it all! Sharpen your cheese graters and start rehearsing your best Italian accents — we’re going full-on pasta crazy!
Mama mia, let’s get started with five cheese ziti al forno recipe!
What’s not to love, really? Pasta. Cheeses. Crunchy topping. Guaranteed family pleaser. But okay, okay, you want more specifics? Try these on for size:
- Easy prep and assembly (most of the ingredients come pre-prepared!)
- Make-ahead friendly to the MAX
- All the flavors of Olive Garden with half the cost!
- Comfort with an Italian flair
- Dean Martin appropriate!
At first glance, the list of ingredients in five cheese ziti al forno recipe might seem overwhelming. But I’m here to ease all of your al forno fears!
Not all pasta is created equal. Believe it or not, the myriad of shapes that pasta comes in isn’t just for aesthetic appeal. Certain shapes, thicknesses, and ridges were designed to hold up to certain dishes — and ziti was designed to hold its own against the high heat of baked recipes. Other types of pasta may lose their structure under the sauce’s moisture and the oven’s temp. Go for the ziti, trust me!
Brand of Pasta: It’s important to use a quality brand of pasta. If you do just a tiny bit of research, you will find that Barilla and De Cecco come highly recommended by many professional chefs. Pasta brands of higher quality hold up better than generics. Check out this article for more on The Best Dried Pasta Brands.
Of course, sometimes, your supermarket will thwart you and not have any of the imported Italian brands of Ziti available. So just do the best you can.
No marinara sauce? No problem! Forgot to snag jarred marinara sauce? Fear not! You can make a quick homemade sauce using canned tomato sauce, dried or fresh basil, Italian seasoning, and salt. Use as directed in the recipe, and I promise, you might “forget” to buy jarred sauce next time too!
Sunday Gravy: As with most Italian dishes, the sauce here is the star of the show! This is a great dish in which to utilize my Sunday Gravy. A homemade sauce made completely from scratch, Sunday Gravy is a bit time consuming but so flavorful and worth every second. When I make it, I make a big batch because it freezes well, and its flavor is unbeatable.
Gluten-free and fabulous: Believe it or not, making this recipe gluten-free is as easy as swapping two of the ingredients! Just use gluten-free ziti and gluten-free breadcrumbs.
Parmesan imposter: I know a lot of people like to reach for the dried, shake-on parmesan cheese when recipes call for it — but try going for the refrigerated, pre-shredded packages of parmesan cheese instead. The creaminess factor is off the charts, and it’ll make your five cheese ziti al forno recipe taste that much more like you’re sitting at Olive Garden!
Pan Size: I’ve always made this in a ceramic 9X13X2 inch baking dish. The recipe comes up to the tippy top but has never overflowed. It’s very heavy so I put it on a baking sheet so it’s easier to get in and especially, out, of the oven when it’s hot. One reader made a version of this recipe, omitting some of the sauces because she was concerned it would not fit in a standard 9X13 inch pyrex dish. I’ve written the instructions so you can make the recipe work with the pans you have at home. I hope this helps ♥
Five cheese ziti al forno recipe practically begs to be stored! Baked ziti recipes were made to be used and reused.
Can You Freeze This?
Yes! Ziti’s strong structure lets it stand up to even the freezer’s low temperatures. Some of the sauce will absorb into the pasta the longer you store it (before it freezes), which will make ziti a bit soft — but the ooey gooey texture of this dish allows for a little extra ooey gooey-ness!
Once you thaw your five cheese ziti al forno recipe, you may want to remake a batch of the topping and bake it off on the dish for a few minutes in the oven, to give it that signature crunch again.
Make Ahead Tips
Baked ziti recipes were designed to be made ahead! Follow the recipe below through step five. Cover in an airtight container and freeze until you’re ready to bake. Then finish up the topping, sprinkle it on the ziti base, and bake to perfection! You can store baked ziti dishes like this for up to three months.
How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge?
Dishes like five cheese ziti al forno recipe that fall into the “casserole” category should be stored in refrigerators for no more than four days. After that, not only has the dish lost a lot of its textural integrity, you run the risk of bacteria growth. Which is definitely not the sort of garnish you want!
Got some extra ingredients that want to be part of the five cheese ziti al forno recipe action? Want to shake things up with your Olive Garden at-home meal? Check out these variations!
What Meat Options I Can Add In This Recipe?
What meat options CAN’T you add in this recipe? The possibilities are endless! Ground beef, chopped sausages, shredded chicken — even slices of portobello mushrooms if you’d like a vegetarian version. Just make sure to pre-cook your meat before you add it to the ziti base, especially your ground beef!
Can I Cook This In A Pot or Skillet?
You can, but you’ll miss out on the warm, melty goodness that comes from oven baking this five cheese ziti al forno recipe! To cook this on the stove, cook the pasta as directed, then combine the pasta with the sauce ingredients in a skillet. Cook until hot.
The topping wouldn’t be the best idea this method, as the oven is what toasts up the breadcrumbs, but you’ll still end up with a cheesy, saucy ziti dish if you’re in a pinch!
Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno
For The Ziti:
- 16 ounces dry ziti pasta
- 2 (24-ounce) jars marinara sauce, or 48 ounces of Sunday Gravy
- 2 (15-ounce) Jars alfredo sauce
- 1 cup Ricotta cheese
- 2 cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 cup Fontina cheese, shredded
- 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
For The Topping:
- 2 cups Mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons Romano cheese shredded
- 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon fresh garlic chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons Italian parsley chopped
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9X13 with 2-inch sides or a15X10 (4.5 quart) inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain well.
- In a large bowl, mix together the Marinara Sauce (or Sunday Gravy), Alfredo sauce, ricotta cheese, 2 cups Mozzarella Cheese, 1 cup Fontina Cheese, 1 1/2 cups Parmesan, Italian Seasoning, and garlic powder.
- Mix together the drained ziti with the Sauce and cheese ingredients until well combined.
- Pour ziti into the prepared baking dish. Spread the remaining 1 cup of Mozzarella over the top of the ziti.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine all the topping ingredients until they're well combined. Sprinkle evenly over top of the ziti. Place baking dish on a rimmed cookie sheet to catch any drips.
- Bake in the preheated oven until the topping is golden brown and the sauce is bubbly about 30-40 minutes.
Can’t get enough homemade baked ziti recipes? Me neither! Which is why I pulled together three more of my favorite ziti dishes:
Your kitchen smells like cheese and garlic. Your table is set with a fresh green salad, toasted breadsticks, rich red wine, and of course, the star of the evening: five cheese ziti al forno recipe. Your family and guests applaud you for splurging on so much Olive Garden food for them! How thoughtful you are.
But only you know the truth, that you made this luscious dish yourself.
Well, I know too. But don’t worry — I’ll never tell!