Four Cheese Baked Ziti

This comforting baked ziti has pockets of cheese for a delicious, cheesy baked pasta dish. It’s easy to make in less than an hour, or you can prep it ahead and keep it in the refrigerator to bake later. This is a vegetarian ziti, but you can easily add Italian sausage, ground beef, or chicken to make it even heartier.

photo of a scoop of ziti being lifted out of the pan

Easy Baked Ziti

This baked ziti recipe is one of my all-time favorite baked pasta recipes – it’s rich, cheesy, and easy enough for weeknight dinners. Or, you can prep it ahead to bake later.

What I love best about it is the cheese – instead of mixing ricotta and other cheese into the sauce, you drop dollops of a four-cheese mixture, so you get pockets of cheese in the pasta and sauce when you serve it.

I’ve made it countless times since I first made it in 2014. The inspiration came from The Amateur Gourmet – Adam shared a meatier version, but I make mine a meatless ziti.

As Adam mentions in his post, everyone needs a great baked ziti recipe, and this is it for me. Try it, and it might just be the recipe you didn’t know you were missing.

Recipe Highlights

  • I’ve mentioned the cheese pockets, and I’m mentioning them again because it’s what makes this recipe for me.
  • It’s easy to make when you use a good quality marinara sauce. I’m a Rao’s Homemade Fan but choose your favorite brand.
  • My recipe is scaled-down compared to the inspiration. So, it generously serves four, but I’ve doubled it before to serve more, and it works great.
  • It takes about 20 minutes to get it in the oven – parboil the pasta and, while it’s cooking, mix up the cheese part. Layer the pasta, cheese, and sauce in a pan and bake. 30 minutes later, it emerges from the oven hot, bubbly, and cheesy. Have I mentioned the pockets of cheese and how good they are?
close-up shot of the ziti


  • Ziti
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Shredded provolone cheese
  • Cubed fresh mozzarella
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Black pepper
  • Chopped fresh parsley and basil
  • Jarred marinara sauce

Recipe Steps

Boil the ziti for about five minutes. This gives it a head start, so once it’s baked, it will be a perfect al dente. While it cooks, you can mix the cheese mixture with the herbs and seasonings in a bowl.

Once you have your parboiled pasta, cheese mixture, and sauce handy, you can assemble the ziti. You layer it like a lasagna, except it’s easier.

Start by coating the bottom of an 8×8″ baking dish with sauce. Add 1/3 of the pasta and top it with some of the sauce. Drop scoops half of the cheese mixture on top – I usually do five to six tablespoon scoops spaced apart.

Top the cheese with another layer of pasta followed by more sauce and more scoops of cheese. The last layer will be pasta, more sauce, and shredded mozzarella and provolone cheese.

Cover and bake the ziti for 15 minutes. Remove the foil, and bake it for five to ten minutes more or until the cheese on top is melted and the sauce is bubbling hot.

Very Important Questions Answered

Can I use homemade sauce?

Yes, if you have a favorite from-scratch tomato sauce please use it.

I like meat. Can I add meat?

You can add cooked, and crumbled Italian sausage, ground beef, ground turkey, or even shredded chicken would work. Whatever you use, it needs to be cooked first. Or try my baked pasta with sausage which is a variation of this baked ziti.

Can I make it ahead?

This is a great make-ahead recipe. Assemble the ziti and then cover and chill it up to a day in advance. When you bake it you might need to add an extra 10 minutes to the baking time

Can I add some heat?

Sometimes I add a few pinches of red pepper flakes to the sauce as I’m assemble the ziti. If you like a little heat you should try it!

Can I use a different pasta shape?

Try using penne, rigatoni, cavatappi or other short pasta shape if you don’t have ziti one hand. Just don’t forget to parboil it first.

How long do leftovers keep?

They will keep in the fridge for three to four days.

Can I freeze it?

I haven’t tried freezing it, but if you do I recommend freezing it before you bake it. Leave it out to thaw and then bake it. You may need to add to the baking time, too.

I hope you love this baked ziti as much as I do! It’s such a cozy comfort food dinner.

Happy Cooking,

a bowl of baked ziti

More Pasta Recipes

Love pasta recipes? Me, too! Here are a few more you might like to try:


Four Cheese Baked Ziti

photo of a spoon lifting out cheesy baked ziti

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 1 review

Baked ziti is always a go-to favorite. I like to layer this ziti like you would a lasagna so you get pockets of melted cheese throughout. This version has a combination of ricotta, provolone, Parmesan, and fresh mozzarella cheese making it extra cheesy and creamy. Plus, it’s easy to make thanks to store-bought sauce and is ready to go in the oven in about 15 minutes.

  • Author: April Anderson
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: Italian-American


  • 8 ounces ziti
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2/3 cup shredded provolone cheese, plus 1/4 cup shredded (for topping)
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed, plus 1/4 cup shredded (for topping)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus some for serving
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 (24-oz) jarred marinara sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Boil the pasta for about half the time it says on the box (about 5 to 6 minutes) – it will finish cooking when it goes in the oven with the sauce and cheese. While the pasta is cooking combine the ricotta, provolone, mozzarella, Parmesan, pepper, parsley, and basil in a medium bowl.
  2. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Pour some sauce into an 8×8″ baking dish, just enough to coat the bottom. Add about a third of the cooked pasta, and top it with some sauce. Using a tablespoon, drop scoops of the cheese mixture over the top of the sauce, about 5-6 scoops.
  3. Top the cheese with another layer of pasta followed by some sauce. Scoop the remaining cheese over the top of the sauce and add the rest of the pasta. Add the rest of the sauce over the top. It may seem like there is way too much cheese, so be generous with your scoops. Once the ziti is baked those scoops of cheese will turn into the most decadent pockets of ooey-gooey cheese.
  4. Top the ziti with the rest of the shredded provolone and mozzarella cheese. Cover the baking dish with foil and transfer it to the oven. Bake the ziti for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake it for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted and the ziti is bubbling around the edges. Let the ziti rest for a few minutes before serving with extra grated parmesan cheese on the side.


  • Serving Size: 1/4 of recipe
  • Calories: 611
  • Sugar: 10.5g
  • Sodium: 1466.4mg
  • Fat: 23.9g
  • Saturated Fat: 13.5g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 8.4g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 59.1g
  • Fiber: 5.5g
  • Protein: 38.8g
  • Cholesterol: 73.6mg

Do you love this recipe? Don’t forget to leave a comment and your recipe star rating!

Post updated from the archives. First published in September 2014.

One Comment

  1. This was perfect, detailed beautifully & I love the water trick I honestly never knew that ! Thank you so very much for sharing this. God bless.

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