This recipe is all you need to make an all-star vegetarian baked ziti with ricotta, marinara sauce, and a layer of bright veggies. Perfect weeknight baked pasta, and you can prepare it ahead and store in the fridge or freezer for later. See notes.
- 3/4 lb Ziti or Penne pasta
- Extra virgin olive oil (I used Early Harvest Greek extra virgin olive oil)
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 2 zucchini, small diced
- 1 bell pepper (orange or red), cored and diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Kosher salt
- 1 tsp dry oregano
- 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
- 6 cups quality Marinara sauce (store-bought is fine)
- 10 basil leaves, torn or carefully sliced/chopped
- 1 cup ricotta (I used part-skim)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided
- 6 oz shredded Mozzarella
- Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When ready, add the pasta and cook to al dante according to package. When ready, drain pasta but save about 1/2 cup cooking water.
- Cook the vegetables. While the pasta is cooking , cook the vegetables. In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes or so, tossing regularly, then add diced zucchini, bell pepper, and garlic. Raise heat to medium-high and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes, tossing regularly, until vegetables have softened and cooked through. Season with kosher salt, oregano and paprika. Sit aside till needed.
- Prepare the Ricotta Filling. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup grated Paremsan and 3 tbsp Mozzarella. Mix well. (If needed, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to help mix the cheese)
- Combine Pasta with Sauce and Cheese Filling. Once the pasta has been cooked and drained, bring it back to the cooking pot. Add 1/2 of the marinara sauce and starchy cooking water you reserved (1/2 cup). Mix well to coat the pasta with the sauce. Fold in the ricotta cheese filling. Mix again to combine, but leave some big “pockets” of the cheese mixture.
- Assemble the Pasta Casserole. Grab a 9 1/2″ x 13″ casserole dish. Pour a little marinara sauce to the bottom of the dish, spread. Spread half the pasta. Now add the cooked vegetables and some of the torn basil on top and spread well across the pasta layer. Sprinkle a little bit of shredded mozzarella on top (leave more mozzarella for very top layer.) Add remaining pasta. Spread remaining marinara sauce on top and add remaining mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.
- Bake. Place the casserole dish on the middle rack of your heated oven. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or so. Remove from heat and let rest about 10 to 15 minutes before cutting through. garnish with fresh basil.
- Make Ahead Tips: If you’re having guests and would like to prepare this vegetarian baked ziti one night ahead, you absolutely can! To do so, cook the pasta and veggies. Prepare the ricotta mixture. Assemble everything in a casserole dish according to the recipe but DO NOT bake. Cover and refrigerate. When ready, bake according to step #7 (you may allow a little more baking time if you are baking from cold.)
- Make Ahead and Freeze: You may also assemble and freeze until you need to bake it. Instead of refrigerating, cover tightly and freeze (assuming your casserole dish is freezer safe.) When ready, cover ziti dish with foil and bake in 350 degrees heated oven to thaw completely and warm through for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Then, remove the foil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes till top is bubbling and gaining some color.
- Leftovers: Cooked leftovers may last 2 to 3 days, if properly stored in the fridge or frozen for later use.
- Visit our online shop to browse our selection of olive oils and all-natural and organic spices.
- Category: Entree
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Baked Ziti Vegetarian, Baked Ziti with Ricotta, Easy Baked Ziti