Baked Ziti Casserole

When it comes to dinner parties around the holidays, I am all for thinking outside the box. Turkey, ham, and roast beef are fantastic, but sometimes I think it’s fun to do something a bit more casual and cozy, especially for a small gathering of friends or family!

Casseroles are a great way to keep things simple when you are entertaining for the holidays. Most casseroles can be prepared the night before, which leaves you with plenty of extra time to prep for your holiday guests.

Lately, one of my favorite casseroles is a simple baked ziti. It comes together quickly and has all of the flavors of lasagna.  Plus, it’s almost always a crowd pleaser!

Whether you’re entertaining a group of friends for the holidays or just enjoying a chilly evening at home, this is a classic dish that I think you’re going to want to try!

Baked Ziti Casserole
Makes about 10 servings

  • 1 pound ziti pasta
    (penne works, too)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 15 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 16 ounces lowfat cotage cheese
  • 16 ounces lowfat ricotta cheese
  • 8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the sausage and brown in the oil.  Once the sausage is browned, add the onion, garlic, basil, oregano, and thyme.  Continue to cook for a few minutes until the onions are softened and translucent.  Add the crushed and diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 more minutes.  Adjust the seasonings to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the prepared pasta.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, stir together the cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and 2/3 of the mozzarella cheese. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Spread 1/3 of the pasta in the bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Then, spread 1/3 of the cheese mixture on top.  Repeat with layers of pasta, cheese, and finally one more layer of pasta.  Dot the top with the remaining cheese mixture and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top.

Bake uncovered for about 30-35 minutes, until the casserole is bubbly and the cheese is golden.

12 Responses to Baked Ziti Casserole

  1. Baked Ziti Casserole is a family favorite and I have not made it in a super long time! This post reminded me to add it back to the family dinner menu and I’ll try this recipe! Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. I made this for dinner tonight – delicious! My husband and daughter really like it. I used turkey sausage to lower the calories a bit. I froze about half of the cooked pan for another meal. This makes a very full, heavy pan of food. Thanks for the recipe. Darlene

  3. Just made this recipe, wow the whole family loved it! I was planning on leftovers but there were none. I can’t wait to make it again!

  4. I love Baked ziti but I haven’t made this in years s there are only two of us. can this be frozen? thanks

    • Hi, Sheri – Sure, it can be frozen! I’d recommend dividing the casserole up into multiple baking dishes when you assemble it. Only bake as much as you plan to eat and freeze the unbaked portion in another freezer-safe casserole. Then, you can thaw it out and just pop it in the oven when you want to enjoy it later.

  5. You didn’t mention layering the tomato sauce with the cheese and pasta, I assume you add a layer of sauce after each pasta and cheese layer. This really sounds good. Also I would need to make only half the recipe since I cook for just myself, will this affect the recipe? I don’t have a separate freezer, so I have less room to freeze half.