Baked Ziti with Meatballs

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Baked Ziti with Meatballs is loaded with marinara sauce, three cheeses, and the best homemade meatball recipe you've ever tasted.

It's the perfect family-friendly meal that freezes well and just screams comfort food!

ziti after being baked.
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Why You'll Love This Recipe

  • This baked ziti with meatballs recipe includes everything you love about pasta dishes. It's cheesy, packed with flavor, and delicious!
  • Homemade Italian meatballs are the best you'll ever taste because they’re tender and created with simple ingredients. 
  • Use ground beef, chicken, turkey or pork in this ziti recipe. Some folks like to use Italian sausage or a combination. The choice is yours!
  • Both meatless marinara sauce and tomato sauce (with meat) pair well with this ziti pasta. Use your favorite jarred sauce or make your own.
spoon lifting up a meatball with cheese.

Ingredients

Your whole family will love this easy meatball recipe and beg for seconds! (My hubby likes to take leftovers to work the next day.)

Make this dish ahead of time and keep in the fridge until ready to bake. It's great for sharing with family for a casual weeknight meal, or taking to friends who need a little pick-me-up.

Quantities are listed in the recipe card.

Meatballs

  • ground beef (85% lean)
  • onion
  • garlic powder
  • dried Italian seasoning
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • seasoned bread crumbs
  • large egg
  • salt and pepper
meatballs after being rolled out on a plate.

Ziti and Sauce

  • ziti noodles (or penne pasta)
  • large jar of marinara sauce

Toppings

  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • shredded parmesan cheese
  • whole milk ricotta cheese
  • dried Italian seasoning
  • large egg, beaten

How to Make Meatballs

Combine bread crumbs, ground beef, diced onion, garlic powder, freshly grated parmesan, dried Italian seasoning and salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Add beaten egg and using your hands, combine with meatball mixture until fully incorporated. Scoop out mixture with a medium 1.5 inch scoop and roll into balls.

Place meatballs in a skillet with olive oil on medium high heat. Brown on both sides (about 3 minutes), then remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm until time to assemble ziti.

How to Make Ziti

  • Cook the pasta per the package directions in quarts of salted water until it is al dente.
  • Drain cooked ziti and place in a large bowl covered with plastic wrap until ready to assemble.

Assembling Baked Ziti

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix shredded parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, and Italian seasoning together in a large bowl with a beaten egg.
  • In a large 13-inch baking dish or aluminum pan, add a little sauce on the bottom to keep pasta from sticking.
  • Alternate layers of ziti noodles, sauce, mozzarella cheese, then cheese mixture. Repeat until you almost reach the top of the pan. Leave 1 inch for meatballs.
marinara sauce on top of meatballs.

Adding the Meatballs

  • Transfer meatballs on top of cheese and drizzle with sauce. Shake a little dried Italian seasoning on top.
  • Sprinkle entire dish with the rest of the shredded parmesan cheese.
  • The meatballs will cook while pasta bakes in the oven for 45 minutes.
sauce and parmesan on top of meatballs.

Recipe Highlights

  • These flavorful meatballs are made without any artificial ingredients and the Italian flavor is spot-on. They turn out fork-tender every time!
  • This pasta recipe tastes great with a loaf of crusty bread and a mixed green salad.
  • The bite-size meatballs freeze well and so does the rest of the pasta.
  • Best of all, it's a great one pan dinner recipe that's easy to make in advance!

Variations

  • use cottage cheese instead of ricotta
  • try another type of pasta sauce that you enjoy
  • add sausage, ground turkey, or ground veal to the meat mixture if desired

Freezing and Storage

Freeze Baked Ziti with Meatballs in an aluminum pan with an airtight lid for up to 3 months.

When ready to cook, simply take out of freezer and bake as directed. Add a few minutes to the baking time to allow for frozen food.

To store leftovers, wrap tightly in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or oven in an oven-safe baking dish.

Make this dish ahead and keep in the refrigerator up to 2 days in an airtight container.

baked ziti coming out of the oven.

Recipe FAQS

Should the ziti be baked covered or uncovered?

In order for the top to brown and the cheese to melt properly, bake the ziti uncovered. If it starts to get too brown towards the end of the cooking time, cover it with aluminum foil.

Why should meatballs be browned before baking?

Not all recipes require that you brown the meatballs before baking, but it adds extra flavor and expedites the cooking process in this recipe.

What temperature should meatballs be cooked to?

The proper temperature should read 160 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit when a meat thermometer is inserted in the middle of a meatball.

Can I use frozen meatballs instead of homemade?

Sure! If you want to save time and have a favorite product you love, frozen will work fine too. However, homemade isn't always difficult and the taste is worth it!

Recipe Card

ziti with meatball on a spoon

Baked Ziti with Meatballs

Baked Ziti with Meatballs is loaded with marinara sauce, three cheeses, and the best homemade meatball recipe you've ever tasted!
4.67 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Dishes, Pasta
Cuisine: Italian American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 12
Calories: 673kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.

Equipment

  • 1.5 inch cookie scoop

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef (85% lean)
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 small onion (diced)
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (dried)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large egg (beaten)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin)

Pasta & Sauce

  • 1 pound ziti pasta (boiled and drained)
  • 48 ounces pasta sauce (any brand)

Toppings

  • 16 ounces parmesan cheese, shredded (divided in half)
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese (whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (dried)
  • 1 large egg (beaten)
  • 16 ounces mozzarella cheese (shredded)

Instructions

Meatballs

  • Combine bread crumbs, ground beef, diced onion, garlic powder, freshly grated parmesan, dried Italian seasoning and salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  • Add beaten egg and using your hands, combine with meatball mixture until fully incorporated. Scoop out mixture with a medium 1.5 inch scooper and roll into balls.
  • Place meatballs in a skillet with olive oil on medium high heat. Brown on both sides (about 3 minutes), then remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm until time to assemble ziti.

Pasta

  • Cook the pasta per the package directions in quarts of salted water until it is al dente.
  • Drain cooked ziti and place in a large bowl covered with plastic wrap until ready to assemble.

Toppings

  • Mix half of the shredded parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, and Italian seasoning together in a large bowl with a beaten egg.

Assembly

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large 13-inch baking dish or aluminum pan, add a little sauce on the bottom to keep pasta from sticking.
  • Alternate layers of ziti noodles, sauce, mozzarella cheese, then cheese mixture.
  • Repeat until you almost reach the top of the pan. Leave 1 inch for meatballs.
  • Transfer meatballs on top of cheese and press down into noodles. Drizzle with sauce. Shake a little dried Italian seasoning on top.
  • Sprinkle entire dish with the other half of the shredded parmesan cheese.
  • Bake pasta and meatballs in the oven for 45 minutes until golden brown and cheese is melted.

Notes

  • This recipe feeds a large crowd and usually has leftovers.
  • Freeze Baked Ziti with Meatballs in an aluminum pan with an airtight lid for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to cook, simply take out of freezer and bake as directed. Add a few minutes to the baking time to allow for frozen food.
  • To store leftovers, wrap tightly in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or oven in an oven-safe baking dish.
  • Make this dish ahead and keep in the refrigerator up to 2 days in an airtight container.
  • View the Google Web Story for Baked Ziti with Meatballs! 

Nutrition

Calories: 673kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 43g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Sodium: 1667mg | Potassium: 567mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 821mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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21 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is a great recipe. I made it exactly as written and it turned out. meatballs were very tender. Family loved it. Will make again.

  2. 5 stars
    This was delicious! It makes a huge pan so went ahead and froze half to send back w my daughter to college. I accidentally only used 1/2 of the ricotta (misread the recipe) and it still turned out great! Leftovers need a little sauce added but even better next day thanks!!

    1. That's awesome Jane! So glad you loved my baked ziti recipe and had leftovers for your daughter! 🙂

    1. Sure! In fact, if you hover over the servings number in the recipe card, there's a slider you can change to the amount of servings you need! It will tell you exactly what quantity to fix for 2 people! 🙂

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