I love pasta dishes, and I really love baked ziti but have never had a great recipe for it, until now! This was fantastic – perfectly cheesy with the right amount of sauce and it is packed with flavor. It makes a lot and I’m betting it freezes beautifully (although I haven’t tried that yet). One great thing about this meal is you can make it earlier in the day and pop it in the oven when you are getting ready for dinner – that way it isn’t crazy right around the “crunch time” of dinner. It seems every time I got to make dinner my kids suddenly decide to either strangle each other or cling to my legs. Please tell me I am not alone in this. So I’m all about meals I can make beforehand!

Classic Baked Ziti

Classic Baked Ziti


  • 1 pound 1% cottage cheese
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 ounces grated parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 pound ziti or other similar pasta (like penne)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, finely minced (about 5 teaspoons)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil (use 1/2 cup fresh basil if you have it but add it to the sauce after it has simmered and you take it off the heat)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or substitute whole milk but increase the amount of cornstarch to 2 teaspoons and the cooking time in step 3 by 1 to 2 minutes)
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes


  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the cottage cheese, eggs and 1 cup of the paremsan cheese together in a medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, about 7 minutes (the pasta will finish cooking in the oven). Drain pasta and leave in colander. Do not wash the large pot.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, sugar, basil and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Take off heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Stir cornstarch into heavy cream and transfer mixture to the now-empty large pot the pasta cooked in. Set the pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup of the simmered tomato sauce, and half of the mozzarella cubes, then stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.
  4. Transfer mixture to a 9X13-inch baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cubes and remaining 1/2 cup parmesan cheese over the top. Cover the baking dish with foil that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove foil and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve.


Freezable Meal: Prepare recipe right up until the baking step and then cover with a double layer of aluminum foil. Freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. To bake, increase baking time to 1 hour and 15 minutes, with the final 30 minutes baking the dish uncovered as stated in the initial recipe.If baking from frozen, bake covered for 1 hour and 30 minutes, uncover and bake 30 minutes longer.


Recipe Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

95 Responses to Classic Baked Ziti

  1. Melanie says:

    Gina – that is such a bummer when you get turned off to a certain style of food just because you’ve had bad luck with lame recipes. I’m glad this ziti helped convince you that pasta is actually ok! Glad you liked it.

  2. Gina says:

    When I came across this recipe, my first thought was, just another pasta dish, no thank you! My experience with pasta dishes haven’t been great at all, I usually buy a jar of sauce, mix it with cooked pasta and throw cheese on top and dinner is served. When I finally decided to make my own sauce, I was super excited because the recipe was from the food network, thinking it had to be great, right? Well, the sauce was terrible! It was so bitter and hence forth I decided that all homemade pasta sauces were bitter. But, this recipe kept calling my name, lol, it really did, so I decided to make it this weekend, and I’m so happy to say that this was the best pasta dish I ever made!! My husband went crazy over this dish. We were in pasta heaven! Thank You, thank you!!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    An easy way to make ziti sauce is make it just like how you make your spighetti sauce,add a small jar of the same sauce flavor you are using,add a medium container of ricotta cheese to your sauce,mix together till the sauce gets hot again,mix in cooked ziti noodles mix together and put a 2 cup package of mozzarella cheese on top cook for 35 to 40 mins then broil till the cheese starts to turn brown you have to watch this no more than 2 to 4 mins on this then serve,It’s great for breakfast!

  4. Sexy momma says:

    I always find that wine works great in my sauces (and for getting my babies to sleep). Do you ever simmer your sauces with cooking wine, or vodka?

  5. jennie says:

    Hi Melanie,

    made this for dinner last night – it was a hit! my 2 1/2 yr old had thirds, which is very rare for her!

    I have one question and one comment: did you really mean 28 oz of tomato sauce, or just the more common 8 oz can? I did the 8 oz and it was plenty saucy. Also, I used my wand blender to puree the cottage cheese (to disguise it from my picky daughter) and it was great like that. More the texture of ricotta, which I think would be awesome to substitute if you didn’t have cottage cheese.

    that’s all! thanks for another great recipe!

  6. KT says:

    That looks SO good! I’ve never made baked ziti before so I don’t know the “normal” ingredients – is cottage cheese typical? Interesting! I will have to try this out, thanks for sharing :)

  7. Anonymous says:

    Okay Melanie- I have no idea who you are, but I feel like we’re friends! I have four little one’s too and and I rarely blog! I have had a very busy year and your recipes have been such a blessing. My teenage girls love it too! My 11 year old makes your cheesecake all of the time. I have made several of your recipes and everyone was delicious. I make my weekly shopping list off of your site! Your efforts are truly appreciated!

  8. Natalie- Aussiemuminthekitchen says:

    I posted this today. My little family loved it! Thanks Melanie!

  9. Melanie says:

    Cheryl – Thanks for the comment! It was much appreciated. I love the connections made through blogging. By the way, I am seriously impressed that your 11-year old knows her way around the kitchen so well! Way to go!

  10. Frieda says:

    Beautiful! I’m a sucker for anything pasta…I have tried freezing pasta, but it tends to be a little soggy. Perhaps parboiling part of the pasta will help?

  11. Amanda says:

    I think we’re going to try this next week. I have a stupid question, though. The recipe calls for sugar, but the instructions don’t. My guess is that it goes in the tomato sauce with the other spices?

    BTW, I used to always make the Lion House Rolls because my DH loves them. However, now he can’t decide between those and the french bread rolls.

  12. The Bentley Family and Aussiemuminthekitchen says:

    P.S Is it just me or now that you have had that Perfect Lemon Cake do you crave it all the time too? I’m just waiting for another excuse to make one!

  13. Elyse says:

    This baked ziti looks FANTASTIC! I am so impressed. I love a good baked ziti and am always looking for a stellar recipe to make. Thanks for giving me one! Love your blog and can’t wait to keep reading more of your yummy posts!

  14. Steph says:

    I LOVE baked ziti, it has to be one of my many favorites! Looks delicious!

  15. rickandangie says:

    Can’t wait to try this one, Mel!

  16. The Bentley Family and Aussiemuminthekitchen says:

    This sounds wonderful and you can’t go wrong with Cook’s Illustrated. I’m putting this on my next menu. Thanks Melanie!

  17. Tai Christensen says:

    I love your site! Your recipes always turn out wonderfully and this one was no different! Baked Ziti is a family favorite and I am always up for trying a new recipe. This one was so yummy! The only thing I added was mild italian sausage to the tomato sauce. Thanks for another keeper!!

  18. Krystal says:

    Mmm, I love any meal that I can freeze! then I have an excuse to ‘make’ DH cook dinner for me :)

  19. Molly says:

    We made this for dinner tonight – I was on the hunt for dinner and I just happened to have almost everything needed for this! We love it, easy easy and the kids gobbled it up!
    Thanks for another great recipe – I love your blog!

  20. Melanie says:

    Natalie – thanks for posting and letting me know you liked this!

  21. Donna says:

    This is one delicious comfort food. It looks fabulous!!

  22. Melanie says:

    Melanie – glad you liked this. Too bad I won’t be in your corner of the world when you have your new baby and I’d make it for you!

  23. Heather says:

    You are not alone in trying to fix dinner with kids. I will have to try this because it happens every day! Love this blog, thanks~

  24. jessvb05 says:

    I completely agree with you. I just had my second child, so with a BUSY 2 year old and a 2 month old, I do as much prep for dinner earlier in the day when they’re either a) both happier than they are around dinner time or b) at least one of them is asleep. Makes for a lot less stress at dinner time.

    This recipe looks great, I’ll be trying it soon!

  25. Lynda says:

    This looks amazing. My family loves pasta, so this will be a hit!

  26. Rae says:

    Oh man, NO you are not alone with the dinner time craze!!! I’m excited to try this recipe.

  27. Melissa says:

    That looks amazing! MMM my mouth is watering!
    Great website!

  28. Melanie B. says:

    I made this and I love it. It’s going to be my new recipe when I have to take someone dinner.

  29. Laura says:

    I have had the same dilemma. I just haven’t found the right recipe for baked ziti. I’m gonna have to try this one! Thanks.

  30. Melanie says:

    Molly – thanks for letting me know you liked this! Your comment was sweet and much appreciated.

  31. Kathy says:

    Yum!!! Can’t wait to try this!

  32. Power Kites Sale says:

    I think it’s delicious but my problem is, too many ingredients to have with. I don’t think I can buy all that ingredients but anyway it’s nice to recognize some foods. thanks!

  33. Melanie says:

    KT – I’m not sure what are typical ingredients for ziti, either, but the cottage cheese in this definitely adds creaminess. It is delicious!

  34. PheMom says:

    I can’t wait to give this a try. It is exactly what I’ve been looking for. It looks fantastic Mel!

  35. Maria says:

    Baked pasta always hits the spot!

  36. Julie Pia says:

    I have become a big fan of your blog. I’ve tried many of your recipes and have loved them all. Can’t wait to try the ziti. I love that it’s meatless.


  37. RecipeGirl says:

    This is exactly the one that I make. Wonderful, isn’t it? It’s a good one to make for people too… like when someone has a baby, sick friend, etc.

  38. Kim says:

    Sounds so good! I love pasta. What a great website, I look forward to your posts. Dinner at our house is always the same too, too many kids and not enough hands (or legs) to help everyone. I try to make as much of dinner as I can in the morning when I make breakfast. That way I can just pop it in the oven when it’s time. The kitchen is already clean when it’s time to eat and the only dishes are what we ate with.

  39. Melanie says:

    Hi Jennie – I’m glad this meal was a hit at your house. About the tomato sauce, the recipe really does call for 28 ounces (I used 3 1/2 of the 8 oz. cans) because the pasta soaks up a lot of the sauce while baking (at least, that is the idea). I’m surprised your was saucy enough with just the 8 oz. can but I’m sure glad it was! Thanks for checking in and letting me know.

  40. Melanie says:

    Amanda – that’s not a stupid question at all. Thanks for calling my attention to the typo. You add the sugar with the oregano. I edited the recipe. Thanks!

    Also – I am really glad you like the french bread rolls. They are some of my favorite, too!

  41. Lizzy says:

    I made this tonight. It was simple and the recipe was easy to follow. It was so yummy! We have enough for lunch and dinner tomorrow! Thanks!

  42. grace says:

    i love baked pasta dishes like this–as good as lasagna but with less than half the work. i used to order baked ziti all the time at a little chain called fazoli’s (even though the righteous breadsticks were the main draw…). :)

  43. Melanie says:

    Tai – thanks for your comment! It was so nice and I’m so glad that this turned out great for you. The addition of italian sausage sounds wonderful!

  44. Melanie says:

    Lizzy – this definitely makes enough to feed a crowd. I’m glad you liked it! Thanks for letting me know.

  45. Megan says:

    I love your site and have it on my bookmarks to check regularly! I am very interested in this baked ziti! I like that you can freeze it. I may just be blind but I didn’t see what temp you cook it at? And is the temp the same for if it’s frozen or not frozen? Thanks so much!

  46. Melanie says:

    Megan – the temperature is kind of hidden in the first paragraph but it is baked at 350 degrees. It can be baked at the same temperature if frozen, but it needs more time in the oven (the directions are in italics below the recipe). Good luck!

  47. Sharon Griffin says:

    Made this last week also along with the Tuscan Mac & Cheese. Utterly delicious!!!!

    Going to make some more of your recipes this week:

    Baked Pasta with Chicken Pasta and Chicken Tortellini Bake

    Thanks for sharing all of the great recipes.

  48. Melanie says:

    Sharon Griffin – thanks for letting me know you liked this ziti dish. I really hope you like the baked pasta as it is one of my favorites. Thank you so much for checking in!

  49. Anonymous says:

    Just wanted to add my two cents. This was wonderful! I made it last night and my very picky eaters gobbled it right up. I was impressed. Thanks for all the wonderful recipes! I love your blog and visit it daily :)

  50. Melanie says:

    Anonymous – thanks for your review of this recipe! I’m especially glad your picky eaters liked it, too. Thanks!

  51. alana says:

    I made this the other day and it really is amazing. Anyone who doesn’t like cottage cheese should know that I would have guessed it was ricotta cheese if I hadn’t made it myself (and I hate cottage cheese).

  52. Melanie says:

    alana – thanks for the vote of confidence to other non-cottage-cheese-lovers. I'm glad that you liked this!

  53. Jennifer says:

    Do you use fresh mozzerella in this or just the regular that you buy with the regular cheese? Thanks.

  54. queenann says:

    Made this tonight for the first time. Just wanted to say that even though I’m sure Cook’s Illustrated had a great scientific reason to use corn starch instead of flour to thicken the cream, I used flour anyway and it worked. It turned out great using 1 cup half & half and 1 1/2 tablespoons flour. Other than that, I followed the instructions exactly.

    Delicious. Next time, I will bake half and freeze half. Or invite friends over for dinner. I love good freezable cheesy pasta dishes.

    • Mel says:

      queenann – way to debunk Cook’s Illustrated – I’m thrilled the flour still worked out for you! Thanks for including your changes. Glad you loved this one.

  55. Meredith Christensen says:

    I’m so excited to try this dish! I love quick and easy pastas! One quick question for you though. The recipe called to only partially cook the noodles, as the rest of it will cook in the oven. I have this American Beauty Quick Cook penne pasta that only takes approx 3-4 minutes to cook. So would I only cook those for maybe a minute…or not at all? Any thoughts?

    Thanks so much!

    • Mel says:

      Meredith – that’s a good question. I haven’t used noodles like that but if I were you, I’d probably quickly boil them for 1-2 minutes and then drain and use in the recipe.

  56. Lorie says:

    Hi Melanie, assuming its OK to prepare the night before and bake the following day? I’ve never used cottage cheese so just want to be sure….thanks! My husband said this was delish!

    • Mel says:

      Lorie – yes, I think this could be prepared the night before but I would make sure to cool the sauce before mixing it with the other ingredients so the noodles don’t continue to cook and get mushy.

  57. Kristin says:

    Hi Melanie! I made this dish last night with the addition of ground beef into the sauce – delicious! I was wondering though, would this dish freeze well once baked? It’s only my husband and I and it made such a large amount of food I’m hoping to be able to freeze half. Thanks!!

    • Mel says:

      Kristin – it would probably freeze better before baking but I definitely think freezing after baking is better than throwing it out. It might have a different texture but I think it’s definitely worth a try.

  58. Brittany says:

    I made this for dinner last night and it was a BIG hit! Everyone scarfed in down-even the very picky 5 year old. Thanks!

  59. Joy B. says:

    Made this Ziti last night for a college group coming over to my house and it was wonderful! I did add a little bit of ground beef to please the guy crowd–they can’t handle a meatless meal:) Everyone was getting seconds and even thirds! I love all of your recipes…keep em’ coming!

  60. […] This recipe can be made ahead of time, stored in the freezer for a later date, or  prepared around dinner time.   For our family  I can make the original recipe and  still have enough to freeze for a later date (two meals with the prep of only one meal).  However I am only cooking for three. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_bg", "ffffff"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_text", "000000"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_link", "6C8C37"); GA_googleAddAttr("LangId", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "main-dishes"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "side-dishes"); GA_googleFillSlot("wpcom_below_post"); […]

  61. Susan Bowman says:

    Mel (is that your name?),
    I made this tonight (someone had pinned it on pinterest) and let me tell you…you are the REAL DEAL. This is better than the baked ziti at my local Italian restaurant. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Didn’t change a thing and wouldn’t now that I’ve made it. This one’s going in the rotation. Truly delish and I’m impressed at how easy and how perfect it came out.

  62. Bridgett says:

    My pants were actually pulled off today while making dinner :/ My girls, Evienne and Elianna, are not quite old enough to strangle each other yet, but they definitely latch onto the legs lol! This dish will be added to our weekly menu next week! Can’t wait to try it!

  63. Laura D says:

    I love it, I love it!! So good, Mel…great homemade taste. I subbed ricotta for the cottage cheese…the texture was a little grainy due to my substitution, so I’ll try the cottage cheese next time. Thanks for another delish recipe!

  64. Another dish that did not disappoint. Only super duper exceeded my expectations! I think I am going to do a Julie & Julia style but Angela & Mel…since I love trying your recipes!!! LOL

  65. […] from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe – she also notes on her website what a GREAT freezer meal this makes.  Which then makes a great […]

  66. Jill says:

    Ok-now I know why Megan always said “yes”when she was invited to eat over!

  67. Jennifer A says:

    Prepped for dinner and I know will be amazing. Everyone in the house loves your recipes Mel. Rarely do you ever see anyone amending your recipes. They are delish as is. Super duper happy with my cooking lately thanks to you!

  68. Lindsey says:

    I have made sooo many of your recipes, but this one is definitely a favorite. I just wanted to add in case it helps others, I don’t always have heavy cream on hand so I have actually used skim milk thickened with the extra cornstarch and it works great! Maybe not as rich, but still delicious!

  69. […] Baked Ziti from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe: I had pinned this recipe a long time ago but hadn’t gotten around to making it yet. I used a lot less parmesan cheese, heavy cream, and cottage cheese as I find that Americans like their dishes to be much creamier than I do. […]

  70. Ashley says:

    This is DELICIOUS! Made a pan to send in kids lunches/thermoses this week, they love it.
    Did not have heavy cream so used half whole milk/half Light Cream, upped the cornstarch as you said. Thanks for always including those tips in your recipes. I’d never had or made Ziti and Wow! this is just too good. Next time I will make two pans, one to eat, one to freeze. Thanks so much!!!!

  71. Connie Turnage says:

    Very. Good but will increase sauce next time

  72. Deb says:

    Yum yum yum! This was really good and really easy! Adding this to the rotation for sure!

  73. Barbara says:

    Mel, made this tonigth for my mom and dad who were here visiting and it turned out PERFECT! I was a little worried about trying a brand new recipe with company here, but then I thought, nah, it’s Mel’s, so it’ll be fine! Now tomorrow my aunt and uncle are coming over too, so I’m thinking about trying the shredded pork bbq in the slow cooker and the perfect potato salad. Again, never made them before, but I know they will be great!
    Thanks for ALWAYS having the best recipes!

  74. Amy says:

    Thanks to this great recipe, I just served a very successful first communion luncheon for 120 very hungry family and friends. I was tempted to do your lasagna rolls–but only for about 30 seconds and then I got to your comments about your experience making it for your own church event–so I went with the ziti (ok, ten pans of ziti) instead. I’d made it for my family and friends a few times but never on this scale. BTW, I’ve now learned to just trust your recipes; I no longer feel the need to try them before serving them to others. Thanks again!

  75. Baked Ziti says:

    […] from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe – she also notes on her website what a GREAT freezer meal this makes.  Which then makes a great […]

  76. bluebaker says:

    Hi Mel- I made this with multigrain penne pasta and it was really great. I used evap. milk instead of cream, that’s what we learned in weight loss class. Evaporated milk is a good sub when a dish calls for heavy cream. saves a few calories.

  77. Bethany says:

    I made this last night for a group of 6 people and got rave reviews! I was expecting some left overs but we ate every bit of it. I loved being able to make this earlier in the day and then throw it in the oven an hour before everyone arrived. It was delicious and easy. Thanks! I didn’t make any changes to the recipe since I was making it for others (and for the first time) but I think the next time I make this (and I am for sure making this again) I will try adding some cooked spinach into the cottage cheese/ cream sauce like I do for lasagne.

  78. Sonya says:

    Hi Melanie,
    I have made this dish a few times, and it was delicious! Do you have any tips on how to freeze this effectively? The recipe makes a lot, so being able to cut it in half and freeze it for later would be wonderful.
    Thank you!!

  79. Julie says:

    Hi Mel
    Can you tell me more about 1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce? In Australia, tomato sauce is ketchup. Do you mean passata or puree?

  80. Julie says:

    Thanks for the email. Sauce is purée! I might be getting a bit awkward here because I just made your butter chicken which was fantastic and I used purée not paste! I guess in the long run you just dilute pastes – would that be a way to look at it. Sticks of butter and lots of other terms make it difficult – we should all have the same measures!
    Loved the chicken though.

  81. Rebecca says:

    Hi Mel,
    Have you ever made this with ricotta instead if cottage cheese? I would love to try it, my current baked ziti is just, meh, but my husband is in love with ricotta. I suspect it would work just fine.

    • Mel says:

      Rebecca – I have never tried it. Ricotta might be a bit dry so watch for that and maybe add a little extra milk or liquid if needed.

  82. Julie says:

    Just fabulous! Followed the recipe exactly. Everyone loved it! File as “make again” for sure. Thank you!!

  83. Becca says:

    I don’t have parmesan on hand, do you think this would work ok with only mozzarella?

  84. Lilly says:

    Hi Mel,
    Your blog first caught my eye because my daughter Melinda is often called Mel by the family! Call that the most delicious bit of Serendipity! I just made the Classic Baked Ziti and it is fabulous. I know my Mel will especially love it, since she’s a vegetarian. Alas, I didn’t read all the comments after the one that suggested the tomato sauce measure of 28 oz. was too much. I used 16 oz. and it is still yummy, though, I’m wondering if it will dry out a bit when reheated. Next time I’ll know better. Can’t wait to try other recipes!

  85. Mary says:

    Thank you for the wonderful recipe! My family is not a fan of cottage cheese, but to fool them, I puréed it – I don’t think they suspected a thing ;)

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