Vegetarian Baked Ziti

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Make an Italian classic without slaving away in the kitchen with this Vegetarian Baked Ziti.

Vegetarian Baked Ziti featured image above

When I want to make a midweek meal that is quick, easy, AND will be devoured by all family members, I make this Vegetarian Baked Ziti. It’s a pasta dish, which are usually crowd pleasers, and it’s simple, which is something that I appreciate after a long day. Plus, it’s packed with a variety of cheeses—ricotta, Parmesan, and mozzarella. I’ve learned that when in doubt about a meal, just add cheese, and this Baked Ziti is the perfect illustration of that lesson.

This dish is similar to others I’ve posted, like the Easy Baked Pasta, Baked Spaghetti, and, of course, my Easy Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage, but what makes this recipe stand out is that it is fuss-free with no meat demanding your attention during the cooking process. And trust me, you won’t miss it. The cheese and veggies see to that. So what are you waiting for? It’s time for some EZ ZT!

What is Ziti? //

Confession time: When I was young, I thought ziti was a particular dish. I thought it was comparable to a casserole or lasagna and involved baking pasta noodles (cook’s choice), meat, veggies, and cheese. So you can imagine my surprise that “ziti” is merely the type of noodle. Yep, it’s those medium-sized tubes that many mistake for penne or rigatoni. The difference is that ziti has a smooth exterior (Penne has ridges), and its ends are cut straight (perpendicular to the noodle’s length), whereas Penne’s ends are pointed, having been cut on an angle. Rigatoni, meanwhile, are larger versions of ziti.

Ingredients //

  • 4 oz. ziti pasta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 oz. tomato sauce or marinara
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • pinch of salt and pepper
Vegetarian Baked Ziti ingredients

How to Make Vegetarian Baked Ziti // The Steps

Step 1: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Once cooked, drain the pasta and save 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Vegetarian Baked Ziti step 1

Step 2: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the diced bell pepper and minced garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes until fragrant and soft. Add the tomato sauce and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Vegetarian Baked Ziti step 2

Step 3: In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, and half of the mozzarella cheese and mix well.

Vegetarian Baked Ziti step 3

Step 4: Add the cooked ziti to the skillet with the tomato sauce and reserved pasta water. Mix together until well combined.

Vegetarian Baked Ziti step 4

Step 5: To assemble the baked ziti, start by layering the pasta in a baking dish, followed by dollops of the ricotta mixture. Add more pasta and top with the reserved shredded mozzarella cheese.

Vegetarian Baked Ziti step 5

Step 6: Bake the vegetarian ziti at 375°F for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and the cheese is melted.

Vegetarian Baked Ziti step 6

Step 7: Remove the baked ziti from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Garnish with fresh chopped basil.

Vegetarian Baked Ziti step 7

Top Tips For a Perfect Vegetarian Baked Ziti

  • Cook the pasta al dente. Remember, it will continue to cook in the sauce in the oven and you don’t want it to be mushy by the time it makes it to your plate.
  • Use partly skimmed ricotta cheese if you’re worried the meal will be too heavy.
  • For added veggies, buy some frozen spinach. Let it thaw completely. With a paper towel, absorb the excess moisture then mix it in with the cheeses.
  • Lay a thin amount of tomato sauce on the bottom of your dish to help prevent the pasta from sticking. Alternatively, spray the dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Vegetarian Baked Ziti featured image below

FAQs //

Do I have to use ziti?

Ziti is ideal because it is bite-sized, making it easier to eat, and, as a tube, the dish’s sauce can get tucked away inside, making each bite an explosion of taste. But if you don’t have any on hand, you can use whichever noodle you like. I recommend shells as a good substitute.

Why do I need to let it rest after baking?

Resting lets the dish settle and firm up, making it easier to serve. The flavors are also able to meld after having absorbed the residual heat.

Which other vegetables should I add?

Along with the bell peppers, add mushrooms, onions, eggplant, and/or zucchini. Those are the traditional veggies to include. You’re the chef (and eventual diner) though; add your favorite ingredients and please only you and your family.

How do I prevent burning?

If your cheese is browning a bit too quickly, cover it with aluminum foil.

Which other cheeses can I add?

If the three cheeses already involved in the dish aren’t enough, look to provolone (a semi-hard cheese with a slight tang to it) or fontina (a milder, creamier cheese with a slight nuttiness).

Vegetarian Baked Ziti featured image below

Serving Suggestions //

Roasted Brussels Sprouts: A simple way to add some nutrients and more greens to your meal.

Cucumber and Onion Salad: A veggie snack that can double as a side dish.

Chicken Piccata: Use your ziti as a side dish and serve pan-fried chicken cutlets as the entree.

Grilled Pepper Salad: More veggies and cheese—it’s perfect!

How to Store Vegetarian Baked Ziti //

Let the ziti cool completely, cover it with aluminum foil, and then store it in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also remove it from the casserole dish and put it (as a whole or in smaller servings) in an airtight container. You can also freeze it. This time you’ll want to put it in airtight containers. It should be good for 3 months. Before reheating, let it thaw in the fridge overnight then microwave it or warm it in the oven on LOW heat.

Vegetarian Baked Ziti featured image below

Vegetarian Baked Ziti

Make an Italian classic without slaving away in the kitchen with this Vegetarian Baked Ziti.
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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 235 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 4 oz. ziti pasta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 10 oz. tomato sauce or marinara
  • 1 red bell pepper cored and diced
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese grated
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves chopped
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Instructions
 

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Once cooked, drain the pasta and save 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
  • In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the diced bell pepper and minced garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes until fragrant and soft. Add the tomato sauce and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, and half of the mozzarella cheese and mix well.
  • Add the cooked ziti to the skillet with the tomato sauce and reserved pasta water. Mix together until well combined.
  • To assemble the baked ziti, start by layering the pasta in a baking dish, followed by dollops of the ricotta mixture. Add more pasta and top with the reserved shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake the vegetarian ziti at 375°F for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and the cheese is melted.
  • Remove the baked ziti from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Garnish with fresh chopped basil.

Notes

  • Cook the pasta al dente. Remember, it will continue to cook in the sauce in the oven and you don’t want it to be mushy by the time it makes it to your plate.
  • Use partly skimmed ricotta cheese if you’re worried the meal will be too heavy.
  • For added veggies, buy some frozen spinach. Let it thaw completely. With a paper towel, absorb the excess moisture then mix it in with the cheeses.

Nutrition

Calories: 235kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 12gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 26mgSodium: 540mgPotassium: 391mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 1560IUVitamin C: 44mgCalcium: 198mgIron: 1mg
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