This Meatless Baked Ziti is a delicious warming dish perfect for a comforting dinner to share with loved ones.
This fantastic pasta bake is the vegetarian version of a classic baked ziti. It is easy to make and is loaded with flavor, thanks to an easy-to-make rich tomato sauce and three kinds of cheese - ricotta for creaminess, mozzarella for those all-important string cheese pulls, and parmesan for some sharp, salty cheese flavor.
This recipe is so simple to make; serve it with a salad and some bread for a dinner the whole family will love.
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These notes are here to help make this recipe a success; they cover some but not all ingredients; for a complete ingredient list, check out the recipe card below.
Ziti: You can use ziti, penne, rigatoni, spirals or cavatappi. The pictures here are taken with penne lisce.
Garlic: The recipe suggests 4 cloves, but as always, measure the garlic with your heart.
Onion: Any onion will work. Yellow, brown, white, or red.
Tomato Passata/Marinara sauce: Passata is just plain, pureed tomato; it is thicker than canned tomato. It is different from the thick tomato paste you can buy. You often find it on the bottom shelf of the pasta sauce aisle. In America, Passata is called tomato sauce (not to be confused with ketchup!) If you can't find passata/tomato sauce, you can sub in a jar of marinara sauce.
Ground Fennel: This is op[tional, but it will add so much flavor to your pasta. It is a great ingredient to have on hand. It can go into plenty of Italian dishes and is also great when making a curry sauce.
Ricotta Cheese: Use creamy whole milk ricotta for the best results. Low-fat ricotta can be very dry.
Grated Cheese: The recipe calls for grated mozzarella and parmesan. But you can substitute with what cheese you have available. As with all my recipes, grating it yourself is always better than pre-grated.
We've tested this recipe at least 3 times to ensure it works well for you, have a look at our tips for getting the best dish you can!
- Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the packet suggests. This will help it keep its shape when you add it to the pasta bake.
- When adding the ricotta, spoon it out into small dollops rather than mixing it through the pasta. This gives you creamy pockets and is so much nicer to eat.
- Grate your own mozzarella and parmesan; this will ensure they melt well. Store-bought grated/shredded cheese is coated in cellulose to stop it from sticking together. This leaves a grainy texture in the melted cheese.
Why You'll Love This Meatless Baked Ziti
- Easy to make and loved by everyone.
- Easy to find, inexpensive ingredients perfect for feeding a big family.
- Versatile, there are many ways to adapt this recipe.
- It can be made ahead of time.
These are all just suggestions and things that have worked in our test kitchen, but it is your dinner, so adapt it to suit your family. That is the beauty of cooking; we can all create our own delicious meals.
Reduce the pasta: if you want to cut down on the pasta, use half pasta and half cauliflower (I par-cook it for 2 minutes with the pasta)
Adding extra veg: Add chopped zucchini, bell peppers, celery, mushrooms, and spinach to your tomato sauce.
Add leftover cooked meat: Shredded/diced meat can be added to the sauce once cooked before it is mixed with the pasta. Chicken, pork, beef, and sausage will all work well.
Add salami/pepperoni/ham: If you have some salami, pepperoni, or ham in the fridge, chop them up and mix them into the pasta and sauce.
Add spice: Add some red pepper flakes to your sauce mix. Or add some chopped green jalapenos to your ricotta layer.
Mix up the cheese: Play around with the cheese, depending on what you have available. For example, goat's cheese is excellent mixed with ricotta, as is a creamy blue cheese like gorgonzola.
Make Ahead of Time
To make ahead, make the sauce and cook the ziti. But let them cool before combining. Once cool, assemble per the instructions and cover with glad wrap. Keep it in the refrigerator for 2 days or freezer for 3 months (defrost before baking). To bake, cover it with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes, removing the foil for the last 15 minutes so the cheese can get golden and crispy.
Sides: This baked pasta is a saucy, rich dish, so a crisp green salad and some bread work well. Or add a side of vegetables like easy buttered veg, chili sugar snap peas, roasted broccoli, or some garlic green beans.
Wine: Red wine drinks could go for a Valpolicella or a Chianti Classico. Both are medium-bodied and will stand up to the richness of the cheese while balancing any sweetness from the sauce.
If you prefer white wine, opt for a crisp, citrusy Vermentino that can cut through the richness of the cheese without adding sourness to the tomatoes. Or grab a bottle of Prosecco, as bubbles make most meals better!
If you make this Meatless Baked Ziti, don't forget to come back and comment. You can also tag me on social media @sprinklesandsprouts
Any questions about the recipe? Use the comments section below.
Get the Recipe
Meatless Baked Ziti
For the sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 24 oz tomato passata/marinara sauce - see note 1
- 2 teaspoon dried Italian herb
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
For the pasta
- 10 oz ziti pasta - see note 2
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 cup ricotta - see note 3
- 1½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese - see note 4
- ½ cup shredded parmesan - see note 4
- parsley or basil to garnish - optional
Make the Sauce
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook for 3-4 minutes or until translucent.1 tablespoon olive oil1 onion, finely chopped1 carrot, finely chopped
- Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds before adding the passata and seasonings.4 cloves garlic, minced24 oz tomato passata/marinara sauce2 teaspoon dried Italian herb1 teaspoon oregano1 teaspoon sugar1 teaspoon ground fennel1 teaspoon garlic powder2 teaspoon onion powder1 teaspoon salt½ teaspoon black pepper
- Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook on low while you cook the pasta.
Cook the pasta
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the salt, and cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the packet suggests.10 oz ziti pasta1 tablespoon salt
- Reserve ⅓ cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta and return to the pan.
Assemble the Dish
- Pour 2 cups of the sauce into the pasta, along with the reserved pasta cooking water, and stir gently to combine.
- Spread the pasta into a baking dish (23x33cm / 9×13").
- Spoon the ricotta over the pasta and then pour over the remaining sauce. Top with the mozzarella and parmesan.1 cup ricotta1½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese½ cup shredded parmesan
- Bake for 25 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbling.
- Sprinkle with fresh herbs before serving (optional)parsley or basil to garnish
- Passata is just plain, pureed tomato; it is thicker than canned tomato. It is different from the thick tomato paste you can buy. You often find it on the bottom shelf of the pasta sauce aisle. In America, Passata is called tomato sauce (not to be confused with ketchup!) If you can't find passata/tomato sauce, you can sub in a jar of marinara sauce.
- You can use ziti, penne, rigatoni, spirals or cavatappi. The pictures here are taken with penne lisce.
- Use creamy whole-milk ricotta for the best results. Low-fat ricotta can be very dry.
- The recipe calls for shredded mozzarella and parmesan. But you can substitute with what cheese you have available. As with all my recipes, grating it yourself is always better than pre-shredded.
Nutrition is per serving