What is ziti pasta?
Ziti is a popular, widely consumed pasta that can be used in a variety of dishes. Similar in shape and size to penne and rigatoni, many people aren’t fully aware of the differences between these three ubiquitous pasta shapes. What sets ziti apart from the other two is its smooth surface and straight-cut ends. Rigatoni is always ridged, and while some penne variations can be smooth, they are always cut at an angle.
The tubular shape and short, thick cut of ziti make it an excellent choice for meaty, cheesy, and chunky dishes since the sauces can fit inside the center of each noodle. Baked ziti is one of the most popular dishes, and there are an infinite number of variations for this beloved classic. Continue reading to find out the seven best ziti recipes, each of which would be great to serve at any gathering.
1. Easy Ziti
Everyone loves a quick and easy recipe. This version of baked is sure to satisfy your tastebuds with very minimal effort. All you need is 40 minutes for this to come together, making it a great choice for a weeknight meal or as a side dish for a weekend party. This is like a classic baked ziti, but the addition of pumpkin puree gives a sweet, earthy undertone that truly adds complexity to an otherwise simple dish.
You can use either hot or sweet Italian sausage, but we prefer to use a combination of both to create balance in the dish. Turkey or chicken sausage would also work; however, you’ll lose a bit of the savory flavor that is naturally found in pork. If you decide to go with an alternative sausage, you can introduce a meatier flavor by adding a generous amount of oregano.
Get the full recipe and directions here.
2. Vegetarian Ziti
Most people think of ziti as a dish best served with hearty ground meats such as sausage or maybe a Bolognese sauce. However, you can easily make a delicious baked ziti without using any meat. This filling vegetarian ziti is easily customizable. Use this recipe as a guideline and incorporate whatever vegetables you might have on hand. We used zucchini, but any summer squash can also work beautifully in this dish.
Depending on how strict of a vegetarian you are, you may want to avoid standard Parmigiano Reggiano and opt for a brand that doesn’t use animal rennet. Vegans can use nutritional yeast in place of Parmesan and sprinkle in some vegan mozzarella (there are some excellent smoked vegan mozzarellas that can give this entree a unique taste).
Get the full recipe and directions here.
3. Gluten-Free Baked Ziti
Years ago, people on a gluten-free diet would have had to avoid baked ziti as well as any other standard wheat pasta dish. The good news is that there is now a wide range of gluten-free pasta that tastes just as good and sometimes better than regular pasta. This gluten-free baked ziti will definitely satisfy your craving for pasta.
You can use any brand of gluten-free ziti for this recipe, though we think chickpea-based pasta works wonderfully here. Feel free to choose from regular ground beef or sausage, but check to make sure the sausage doesn’t contain gluten (most don’t, but some additives can). You can also add vegan sausage or a combination of vegetables to create a gluten-free, vegetarian-friendly dish.
Get the full recipe and directions at My Gluten-Free Kitchen.
4. Vegan Baked Ziti
Just because baked ziti usually comes with meat and cheese doesn’t mean vegans can’t also enjoy this meal. This vegan ziti recipe is quick and easy, and you can use basically anything you want to make it your own. While there are plenty of fantastic vegan sausages out there, you can also opt to leave out the sausage completely, or simply replace it with sauteed vegetables.
A major star of this show is the cashew cheese. Its gooey, stretchy, and consistency will you’re your mouth water without using any dairy products. Your dairy-eating friends may even find it difficult to tell the difference between this and real cheese!
Get the full recipe and directions at Nora Cooks.
5. Baked Ziti with Roasted Vegetables
For a healthier, lighter-baked ziti, try making this for dinner tonight. The recipe calls for roasted vegetables in lieu of sausage. It comes together quickly and easily, thanks to the fact that you roast the vegetables rather than sauté them on the stove. This passive recipe gives you time to accomplish other things while waiting for it to bake (although it won’t even take that long).
Get the full recipe and directions at Cookie and Kate.
6. Healthy Baked Ziti
Most likely, you don’t picture baked ziti being “healthy,” but with a few adjustments, you can greatly reduce the calorie count and transform this guilty pleasure. Opt for ground turkey and whole wheat pasta to reduce your calorie intake and add more fiber. You can also use low-sodium tomato sauce if you need to reduce your sodium for the day. This versatile dish can easily adjust to any particular diet.
Get the full recipe and directions at The Clean Eating Couple.
7. Crock Pot Baked Ziti
If you’re low on time, this is the perfect recipe to set and forget while you go about your day. While it might not come out as structured as a standard baked ziti, it won’t matter because all of the flavors are there. This is one of those dishes that works great with pre-packaged products, though we suggest buying higher quality items to add more flavor.
Get the full recipe and directions at Build Your Bite.
These seven ziti recipes should provide you with everything you need to make a wonderful and simple pasta dish. Keep in mind that you can use rigatoni or penne in any of these recipes for similar results. We hope you enjoy making baked ziti and encourage you to use your imagination to come up with your own version of this dish. Be sure to share your discoveries with us in the comments!
If you like this post, we think you’ll really like our Beef Mince Pasta Bake Recipe post.