Baked Ziti with Meatballs is comfort food at its best! Flavorful and juicy meatballs are combined with soft and tender ziti pasta in a rich and cheesy marinara sauce, topped off with extra mozzarella cheese for that perfect golden-brown baked layer.
If you’re looking for an easy and delicious alternative to spaghetti and meatballs, then this Baked Ziti and Meatballs is a must-try. Serve it with some Garlic Bread, this Caprese Salad, or this Italian Salad with Dressing.
This family-sized meal can be made ahead of time, or you can enjoy it straight out of the oven with any leftovers easily stored to be enjoyed again over the following days. If you love easy and delicious pasta bakes, try Chicken Parmesan Pasta Bake, Dump and Bake Meatball Casserole, or Baked Ravioli.
What do I Need for this Baked Ziti with Meatballs?
- Ground meat – I’ve used ground pork and ground beef for the meatball mixture, but you can use Italian sausage or ground turkey for turkey meatballs.
- Onion – Minced.
- Spices, seasonings, and herbs – Dried oregano, coarse black pepper, coarse sea salt (keep more aside for seasoning the pasta water), and fresh basil for garnish (or fresh parsley).
- Italian herb-seasoned bread crumbs – You can also combine bread crumbs with Italian seasoning if you can’t source Italian bread crumbs.
- Worcestershire sauce
- Light brown sugar
- Ziti noodles – Uncooked. You can also use penne pasta.
- Canola oil – You can use another neutral-tasting oil like olive oil.
- Marinara sauce – You can also use another jarred sauce or homestyle sauce.
- Cheese – I’ve used full-fat Mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese for maximum flavor in this cheesy baked ziti. Pecorino Romano cheese is another great option.
Garnish these Italian-style meatballs with your favorite fresh herbs.
You’ll need a large skillet, a pot to cook the pasta, and a large mixing bowl.
Variations and Substitutions:
- If you enjoy spicy hot dishes, you can add in crushed red pepper flakes or Rotel tomato mix into the marinara pasta sauce.
- If you’re short on time then you could use store-bought meatballs instead of assembling them yourself from scratch. I personally love the taste that homemade meatballs offer this dish!
- If you don’t have ziti noodles, any other medium tubular pasta will work. You could even make a baked spaghetti and meatballs dish!
PREP: Preheat oven and cook the pasta al dente. Drain pasta and set aside.
Step 1: In a large bowl, combine the ground meat with bread crumbs, seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and parmesan cheese.
Step 2: Use your hands to mix the ingredients well.
Step 3: Use a spoon or cookie dough scoop to form meatballs and place meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet while assembling the rest. Cook the meatballs in an oiled skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown on all sides.
Step 4: Toss the pot of ziti with marinara sauce, 1 cup of mozzarella, and ¼ cup of parmesan cheese.
Step 5: Spread the coated ziti noodles in a large skillet or a 9×13 baking dish and place the meatballs down into the pasta mixture.
Step 6: Cover the meatballs and pasta with the remaining mozzarella cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is browned.
GARNISH: Garnish with fresh basil and enjoy!
- Serve your Baked Ziti and Meatballs alongside a fresh light salad or some crusty bread that can be used to soak up any remaining sauce. Leftovers can be saved for the following day or for a modified meal such as a baked ziti and meatballs sub.
- Always make use of good quality meat when making your meatballs as this ensures maxim flavor. Homemade meatballs can always be made ahead of time for use in various dishes and stored in the freezer until needed.
- Whatever cheese you opt for, stick to grating your cheese at home instead of buying pre-shredded cheese. Store-bought shredded cheese usually has an anti-caking coating that prevents the cheese from melting smoothly.
- For a creamier casserole, mix a tub of ricotta cheese into the pasta/sauce mixture
Despite popular opinion, meatballs are not originally Italian. In fact, meatballs are a dish that can be found in various cultures around the world, including Swedish, Middle Eastern, and Chinese cuisine. The concept of combining ground meat with spices and forming it into tiny meatballs is a technique that has been used for centuries in many different cultures.
Baked Ziti and Meatballs can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in an airtight container once completely cooled.
This dish freezes well for up to 1 month in an airtight, freezer-safe container. Make sure that your baked ziti and meatballs have completely cooled prior to freezing. To reheat, simply defrost overnight in the refrigerator or in the microwave (using a microwave-safe dish) on the defrost setting and then place your baked ziti and meatballs in a 350℉ preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes till hot and bubbly throughout.
More Pasta Recipes You’ll Love!
Baked Ziti with Meatballs
- ½ pound ground pork
- ½ pound ground beef
- 1 teaspoon minced onion
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt plus more for seasoning pasta water
- ½ cup Italian herb-seasoned bread crumbs
- ¼ teaspoon Worchestire sauce
- ½ cup milk
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese divided
- 16 oz. ziti noodles uncooked
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 recipe Marinara sauce link or 46 oz. jarred sauce
- 16 oz. block full-fat mozzarella cheese grated
- Fresh basil for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a large bowl, combine ground pork, ground beef, onion flakes, oregano, black pepper, salt, bread crumbs, Worchestishire sauce, egg, milk, and ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Use gloved hands to mix the ingredients thoroughly.
- Use a 2 tablespoon (or desired size) cookie dough scoop and form the meat mixture into balls. Roll in your hands for a tighter, more uniform meatball if desired.
- Meanwhile, cook the ziti noodles according to package instructions to al dente. Drain.
- Heat cooking oil in a skillet over medium heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides – they do not need to cook through to the center as they will continue cooking in the oven. Remove from heat.
- Toss cooked ziti noodles with marinara sauce; adjust the amount of sauce to your personal taste. Mix 1 cup of mozzarella and ¼ cup of the parmesan cheese into the sauce/pasta mixture.
- Spread the ziti/sauce mixture into a large oven-safe skillet or a 9×13 baking dish. Place the meatballs down into the pasta/sauce. Cover with the remaining mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and cheese is browned to your liking.
- Garnish with fresh basil and serve!