Here she is, the lightened-up baked ziti of my dreams. This baked ziti has all of lasagna’s saucy, mozzarella-topped appeal, but is easier to pull off on a regular weeknight. Amen.
When I dreamed up this recipe, I wanted to replace some of the pasta with roasted vegetables. In the end, I was able to displace half of the ziti (8 ounces) with two pounds (32 ounces!) of vegetables.
I chose cauliflower, which develops the most irresistible golden edges as it roasts, red bell pepper and yellow onion. I love this combination, but you could easily use your favorite vegetables here.
It took me a while to find the perfect ratio of mozzarella, marinara, and ricotta (I actually used cottage cheese, more on that in a bit). I believe I’ve hit the nail on the head with the final recipe, and can’t wait to hear how it turns out for you.
The Best Baked Ziti
This baked ziti recipe is so versatile. Here are a few more reasons to love it:
- This vegetarian baked ziti will satisfy everyone. True, it’s meatless, but carnivores love ziti without the meat when it tastes this good.
- This baked ziti would be a great option for a date night or casual entertaining. You’ll have plenty of time between steps to chat and sip wine.
- It’s a quiet recipe to make, too. You don’t have to sauté anything! I feel like this is an underrated recipe quality.
- This ziti can be assembled up to 3 days in advance, so this is a perfect dish to make ahead or bring to a friend who could use a good meal.
- This lightened-up classic Italian dish is surprisingly high in protein. Each serving offers twenty grams!
- This ziti would be awesome with my chopped Italian salad. Feel free to make a simplified version of it.
Watch How to Make Baked Ziti
Baked Ziti Ingredient Notes
This recipe doesn’t require a long list of ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:
Preferably ziti, but rigatoni or penne will also work. I usually opt for whole wheat noodles (love DeLallo and Bionaturae), but those have been harder to come by lately, so I used Whole Foods’ organic ziti for these pictures. Pasta is generally sold in one-pound boxes so you’ll need half of a box.
I believe you could use a sturdy corn and quinoa pasta blend to make this recipe gluten free.
I’m a huge fan of my homemade marinara recipe, but since this recipe is supposed to be simple, I opted for a jarred option from the store. My favorite brand is Rao’s, which tastes pretty close to my homemade sauce. If you do want to make homemade marinara, you’ll need to double my recipe to yield the four cups you’ll need for this ziti.
I used cauliflower, bell pepper and onion. If you’re sensitive to onions, you might want to swap the onion for something else (maybe a sweet potato?).
You can use up your leftover vegetables in this ziti recipe. You’ll need about two pounds prepared vegetables to make it work. Keep in mind that heads of broccoli or cauliflower weigh twice as much as they yield in florets (so a two-pound bunch of broccoli will yield about one pound of florets).
Now, you could skip the basil, but it adds a lot of irresistible fresh flavor to jarred marinara, and livens up the cheesy finished dish. In my opinion, it is worth buying!
Part-skim mozzarella is ideal here, since it develops a beautiful golden shade in the oven. It also makes your finished dish less greasy than it would be if you used full-fat mozzarella.
It’s best to grate your cheese yourself, rather than to buy the pre-shredded kind (you’ll also save money this way). Pre-grated cheese is typically coated in starch or powder that can inhibit its melty factor.
Cottage Cheese (or Ricotta)
Scandalous, I know! I genuinely prefer cottage cheese to ricotta here, even though I can’t stand cottage cheese on its own. Ricotta tends to get gummy when heated, which bothers me, whereas cottage cheese turns magically more creamy and delicious. Use whichever one you prefer in lasagna recipes.
A Few Tips Before You Get Started
Use half-sheet pans. If only everyone owned these basic half-sheet pans (affiliate link). They offer a lot of surface area, so your vegetables have some breathing room while they roast.
Be sure to use a big baker. You’ll need a three quart baker (think 9×13″ with deep sides) for this one. Here’s mine. To err on the side of caution against overflow, I’ve instructed you to place the baker on a clean rimmed baking sheet when it’s in the oven.
Don’t overcook your pasta. In fact, you want it a little bit undercooked, so cook it for the shortest amount of time offered on the package. It should still have a little bite to it when you drain it, since it will continue to cook while it’s in the oven.
Please let me know how this baked ziti recipe turns out for you in the comments! I hope you love it as much as I do.
Craving more Italian comfort food? Don’t miss these recipes on Cookie and Kate:
- Best Vegetable Lasagna
- Baked Ziti with Lentils
- Hearty Spaghetti with Lentils and Marinara Sauce
- Classic Minestrone Soup
Baked Ziti with Roasted Vegetables
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- Category: Main dish
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Italian
This amazing baked ziti recipe is lightened up with roasted vegetables. Golden mozzarella, sizzling red sauce and tender pasta make this vegetarian ziti super delicious! Recipe yields 8 servings.
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1″ squares
1 medium yellow onion, sliced into wedges about ½″ wide
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
Pasta and everything else
8 ounces ziti, rigatoni or penne pasta
4 cups (32 ounces) marinara sauce (homemade or store-bought), divided
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, plus extra for garnish
8 ounces (2 packed cups) grated part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
2 cups (16 ounces) cottage cheese or ricotta cheese, divided
To roast the veggies: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit with racks in the middle and upper third of the oven. Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper to prevent the vegetables from sticking.
Place the cauliflower florets on one pan. On the other pan, combine the bell peppers and onion. Drizzle half of the olive oil over one pan, and the other half over the other pan. Sprinkle the salt over the two pans. Gently toss until the vegetables on each pan are lightly coated in oil.
Arrange the vegetables in an even layer across each pan. Bake until the vegetables are tender and caramelized on the edges, about 30 to 35 minutes, tossing the veggies and swapping their rack positions halfway (lower rack to upper rack, and vice versa). Leave the oven on at 425, because we’re going to bake the dish at the same temperature. If you end up with any stray burnt onion pieces, discard them, and set the vegetables aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta just until al dente, according to package directions (it will continue to cook while it bakes in the oven, so you want the pasta to still have a little bite to it). Drain and return the pasta to the pot.
- Add 2 cups of the marinara, the chopped basil, and ½ cup of the mozzarella to the pasta. Gently stir to combine.
- It’s assembly time! Spread 1 cup of additional marinara sauce inside a 9×13″ baker. Top with half of the pasta mixture, and gently spread it into an even layer. Evenly sprinkle the roasted cauliflower on top, then dollop 1 cup of the cottage cheese over the cauliflower (it doesn’t need to be spread into an even layer), followed by ½ cup of the mozzarella.
- Top the mozzarella with the remaining pasta. Then sprinkle the roasted peppers and onion on top, dollop the remaining cup of ricotta on top, then dollop the remaining cup of marinara on that, then sprinkle the remaining cheese all over.
Place a clean, rimmed baking sheet on the lower oven rack to catch any drippings. Place the ziti, uncovered, on top of the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, then transfer to the upper rack for 2 to 5 more minutes until the cheese is deeply golden, if desired.
Remove the baker from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes before serving (trust me). Sprinkle freshly torn basil on top, slice with a sharp knife, and serve.
Recipe adapted from my lentil baked ziti and Allison Roman’s baked ziti.
Make it gluten free: Substitute sturdy gluten-free pasta (such as a corn and quinoa blend).
Advance preparation: You could roast the vegetables up to 3 days in advance. You can also go ahead and assemble the whole thing and refrigerate until baking. It’s probably a good candidate for freezing before baking, too. Please let me know if you try.
Dairy free/vegan note: I’m not sure if this recipe is a good candidate to make vegan, since the cheese offers both volume and structure. My best guess would be to double the recipe for my vegan sour cream (also available in my cookbook, page 217) and use 2 cups instead of the cottage cheese. Omit the mozzarella and use all of the tomato sauce for the final layer. Serve the lasagna with a dollop of additional sour cream on top or, better yet, basil pesto.
I have made this recipe so many times, and I figured it deserves a great rating! This is always a hit with my carnivore husband, and I have made it for guests with rave reviews. Sometimes I add zucchini or squash, and sometimes I make a double batch to freeze half. It reheats perfectly in the oven. Thank you, Kate!
You’re welcome, Briana! I’m glad you love it and have made it so much.
In March I have a sewing retreat that I’m going to use this recipe for. Making it ahead of time and freezing it. Never done the Vegetable Lasagna so I wasn’t sure how it will freeze. I will try it!
Hi! I am looking forward to making your recipe. When using cottage cheese do you use regular or pressed? Thank you!
Regular. I hope you love it, Samantha!
I love love love this recipe and have been making it for a few years now. I used marscapone cheese and after I was afraid to try ricotta as the result was so creamy and tasty. It is the ultimate comfort food and a big hit always! Thanks so much
Great to hear, Triona! I appreciate your review.
The entire pan was gone fast! I was hoping for leftovers. I’m the only one 100% plant-base and my family couldn’t get enough of this! We were actually kind of debating on who gets the last piece. I didn’t change one thing on this recipe.
This dish is now solidly on the food rotation list. Do you think it would have the same flavor with daiya cheese?
I haven’t tried it so I can’t say for sure, sorry! If you are looking for dairy free, I recommend my Best Vegan Lasagna.
What can replace cottage cheese/ricotta cheese? My family doesn’t like it
Hi Linda, you can omit or try my Vegan Sour Cream. It will be different without it as written. Let me know what you think!
Wow! I made this for family and friends and it was a hit! We will be making this again! Thank you for the recipe
Hooray! I’m excited everyone enjoyed it.
This was delicious! I was about to boil the pasta when I realised that if I used no-cook lasagna sheets, I would be able to skip that, so I ended up turning it back into a lasagna:). I love your roasted eggplant lasagna, but this is a bit lighter which means we can eat it more often! So easy to swap in whatever veges are around.
Lovely dish! I prefer blitzing the cottage cheese to make the texture a bit more creamy. I also use sauce that has some basil in it already.
I love how it has room for vegetables. Really pleasant dish to eat.
My partner is new to cooking and makes this often when it’s their time to cook. It’s comfy every time
Thank you for your review, Anneloes!
Making this again for the second time! So delicious, even my carnivore husband was a big fan. I adore traditional baked ziti, but it can get a little heavy with all the lovely cheese. The veggies in this really lightened it up, added a lot of bulk without being purely pasta, and gave it a really fresh facelift. I had it the next few days for lunch and was sad when the pan was gone!
That’s great to hear, Buffie! I appreciate your review.
This was excellent! I cut the recipe in half and it made 4 servings. But next time I need to do that, I think I’ll won’t cut the veggies or marinara in half. The veggies do cook down a lot, so I think it would be great with more! Thanks for an awesome vegetarian recipe.
Thank you for sharing, Julie!
This was absolutely delicious and very easy. I used ricotta, and for the veggies I used broccoli, zucchini, onion, and red bell pepper. I just tossed them all in a mixing bowl to evenly coat them with the oil then transferred to baking pans. SO YUM. I also just used store bought marinara, and if I may suggest Rao’s brand is by far the best!
Thank you for sharing how you made this, Katie! I appreciate your review.
This is really delicious! I used feta instead of cottage cheese because that’s what we had. I followed directions loosely bc I’m was a little absent-minded and trying to multitask…and it’s clearly a forgiving recipe because it turned out delightful.
I like that you got creative and enjoyed it! Thank you for sharing, Jen.
So delicious! I easily veganized it by using homemade tofu ricotta and Violife mozzarella cheese. I absolutely loved the roasted veggies! Thank you!
We all love this ziti, including our kids who are suspicious of vegetables. They have even had the leftovers in Thermoses in their school lunches. The leftovers also freeze wonderfully well in individual-size containers for my own lunches.
I have been making this for years and realized,as I’m putting it together this morning for dinner tonight, that I have never left a review. My husband and two sons love this so much, they actually prefer it to the heavier meat version. It has been in my biweekly rotation for at least 3 years and I make it exactly as written. Thank you so much for this delicious and healthy version!!
I’m glad you love it, Lisa! I appreciate your review.
Truly a favorite dish! Love the cottage cheese, makes it so creamy and perfect!
I’m glad you loved it, Kristin! I appreciate you taking the time to review.
I made this last week for the first time, and it was so good! I’ve tried many of your recipes, from this site and the cookbook, and they’ve all been delicious. Thank you!
You’re welcome, Tana! I appreciate your review.
Tried a double recipe with some changes, including using a higher proportion of pasta, and divided into two dishes, one with cauliflower, red peppers and onions as suggested, with cottage cheese and mozzarella, and the other for friends with some dietary constraints, making that one with carrots and cauliflower, and vegan ricotta and mozzarella. They were a hit with everyone! Wonderful recipe, will definitely keep in the regular rotation!
This is a great “sneaky” veggie dish – and it always turns out so well. We love having a pan of leftovers in the fridge because it’s just as good, if not better, the next day (or two or three). We love the roasted veggie lasagne too but this much quicker to get assembled and cooked.
I’m glad it was a hit! Thank you for sharing, Sarah. It does give the same feel as lasagna, but quicker for sure.
I have made this dish dozens of times. It goes over well with vegetarians and meat eaters a like. I made it into smaller portions to freeze and eat during my maternity leave. I added 1-2 Tbsp of orzo pasta in between a few layers to account for the added moisture that tends to arise from the freeze-thaw-bake. It worked perfectly. I would highly recommend! Before baking, I did leave it on the counter to thaw. But you could reheat straight from frozen (start with it covered), but it would take much, much longer.
That’s great to hear, Liz! I know others will find this helpful.
8oz of pastas is what in gr or cups ? It is hard to figure how much I need to cook. And im cooking it at this moment…oups !,,
Sorry for the delay, how did it turn out?
Our family loves this recipe! The kids always ask for leftovers in a Thermoses to take to school for their lunches. I love that it has plenty of wholesome vegetables in it. This recipe can feed our family of four for two nights and I think it tastes even better on the second day. Our adult married daughter told me that she loves this recipe so much that she recently made it twice in one week. :)
Made this tonight for our meatless Monday dinner. What a great meal. Used a brown rice, gluten free pasta as required by a guest and it was all very delicious. Accidentally added the cheese before the last round of sauce, so decided to add yet another layer of cheese. No one seemed to complain at the extra cheesiness! (Shocking, I know!)
Hi Kate, I love this Ziti so much I make it twice a month! Just wondering if I could throw it all in a crockpot.. Do you know if the veggies would turn out ok?
Hi Madison, I don’t know if this is a great option for a crockpot. Sorry!
I’m looking forward to trying this- looks delicious. Would it work to add mushrooms or do you think they’d add too much liquid? Maybe sautéing ahead of time? We love the texture of mushrooms in other vegi dishes, so wondering what you would advise?
I have made this several times but I forgot to buy the ricotta. Made it without and it was good!!
I’m happy to hear it still turned out, Sarah! I appreciate your review.
I made this with one pound Ziti, and roasted the vegetables in my air fryer. It came out great, and made 4 portions for two people, one to eat and three to freeze. Just one comment, i found 425 degrees a little too hot, the cheese was a little burned on top. Next time I’ll lower the temperature a little. I was looking for vegetarian recipes, and this fit the bill.
Thank you for sharing, Kati! I appreciate your review.
If anyone has veganized this, let me know! Cookie and Kate’s vegan sour cream/ricotta is amazing in her vegan lasagna recipe, so it seems like that would work, but would love to know if anyone has tried it.
I made this tonight and used Kite Hill vegan ricotta. It was really creamy and delicious!
My husband doesn’t like ricotta cheese, so I halfway veganize this by making cashew or tofu ricotta. It comes out amazing.
I thought this was delicious! I added a zucchini and a little broccoli that I had in the fridge along with the other vegetables. Because I don’t like ricotta/cottage cheese, I just eliminated it from the recipe but added extra mozzarella. I would definitely make it again.
Great to hear, Diane! I appreciate your review.
This recipe is delicious and simple to make. I was low on cauliflower, so added carrots and mushrooms. Yum!
After hours of clearing snow in Orchard Park today, this dish turned up on a search for ‘easy vegetarian pasta recipe’. I wasn’t surprised to land on Cookie and Kate… always winning dishes!
We’re warm, nourished, and happy.
Great to hear, Amy! Thank you for sharing.
I made this for the first time last night. I’m eating leftovers now. Absolutely delicious. This recipe is a keeper!
What temperature do I bake this casserole? Looking through the recipe, I only found the temp for roasting the vegies. Thanks!
Hi Deena! It will stay the same. I hope you enjoy it.
Hi Kate. I made this Sunday and we just had the leftovers tonight. It was fabulous! I used a medium cauliflower, but I’d definitely use much more next time. And there will be a next time! (It didn’t help that I stole a few morsels of nicely charred cauliflower bits while waiting for the onions and peppers to finish up. Like candy!) Thank you!
You’re welcome, Dennis!
Hi Kate — I am going to make this on Christmas eve. My oven will be busy with another entree. Looking for advice on how I can cook it. I could roast veggies, make the marinara on the stovetop and then layer it all into my slowcooker or into my electric skillet. Would either of those work as well as the oven? Any recommendations?
Hi Nancy, I haven’t tried it but you could. Let me know how it turns out!
DELICIOUS- it took a long time to make, but definitely worth it! I used tofu ricotta and Violife mozz and it came out perfectly. Another family five star favorite. ❤️
Great to hear, Malinda! I appreciate your review.
i made this last night…yummy! i don’t like ricotta, so i used cottage cheese. and instead of cauliflower & onions, i used broccoli & sweet potatoes (as you suggested ); the sweetness of the potatoes was a nice little surprise with each bite. oh yea, instead of just mozzarella, i used a shredded Italian blend cheese; and i also used a tomato/onion/basil/garlic pasta sauce instead of just plain marinara. it turned out amazing! i’m always on the hunt for tasty recipes with a good amount of veggies for my almost 9yo. he loved it, except he did pick out the red bell peppers. ♀️ since there’s only 2 of us, the 9×13 pan will last us for a while. when i cook in that pan, i usually eat on the meal for a few days then freeze half. i’m sure this will taste just as amazing out of the freezer. this is definitely getting added to my rotation!
Hi, excited to try, but I was wondering if you had an estimate on calorie count for this recipe? Thanks!
Hi! Nutrition information is below the notes section of the recipe.
I mean it when I say I very rarely leave a comment, but this recipe was so wonderful, I have to. We are trying to move towards a more plant-based diet, but this is honestly better than any baked ziti I’ve had that wasn’t vegetarian. I made my own marinara sauce but otherwise followed it as written. I’ve wanted to try the cottage cheese suggestion for awhile now and I’m glad I did! Much better than store bought ricotta, so if you don’t have time to make your own ricotta, give it a try! This will definitely be going into my regular rotation! Thank you Kate!
I’m so glad you did, Kat! Thank you for your review.
Do you think you can add ground turkey? Or sausage ?
I’m a vegetarian so I can’t speak to adding meat. Sorry!
how do I double this? when I click on x2 the veg quantity is the same.
Not sure the scaling up is working . Please advise and thank you. Love your recipes.
I will take a look at that! You will want to double everything.
I want to this but with more pasta . How would I adjust the other ingredients?
Hi Linda, you could add more pasta, but I’m not sure how much and what to adjust without trying it myself.
This was so good! Just enough pasta to consider it a pasta dish, but mostly veggies and cheese, and very flavourful. This is absolutely not something you’ll want to start making after getting home from a long work day, however you certainly could get ahead over a couple of days and have all the components ready, or even have the whole thing assembled and ready to bake when needed. Do let it it sit for a while after baking to firm up a little bit (trust Kate!) otherwise it will be very soupy.
I’m glad you enjoyed it! I appreciate your feedback, Ann.
I thought this sounded ok, but I was wrong. It was fantastic! Way better than I expected. So yummy!!
Great to hear, Allison!
I just made this for the first time. It was yummy and very saucy. I wish I had just made the full box of pasta or had some bread on the side to clean my bowl. Buying the 32oz of Rao’s was a little painful as well..
Made this for dinner and it was fantastic! Love having leftovers!
Great to hear, Kirsten!
Really good and full of flavor. It will be a definite go to. The roasted red pepper gives it great flavor.
Chefs kiss….. delightful. Added mushrooms to it because I just love mushrooms. Thanks!
Wonderful to hear, Dave!