Baked in layers of 3 kinds of cheese and lots of hearty beef marinara sauce, this 3-cheese beef ziti is an easy weeknight dinner and everyone’s favorite comfort food!
Meet the easiest weeknight dinner you’ll ever make! Everyone loves a good cheesy baked ziti and we’re sharing our ultimate version today.
May or may not include a metric ton of cheese, cause we do things the right way around here.
Ziti was always on our dinner rotation growing up and we would always make some version of this recipe! It’s so adaptable with the kind of cheese you can use, type of meat, and cut of pasta.
And hello, cheesy layers. Obviously the best part.
This Beef Ziti features…
- Tender pasta in a flavorful beef marinara sauce
- Layers of gooey mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan
- Minutes to make with basic pantry ingredients
Making the Beef Ziti
(scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full recipe)
Ingredients You Will Need
- Ground beef
- Yellow onion
- Marinara sauce
- Ricotta cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
- Parmesan cheese
Can I Use Another Meat?
Yes! This recipe is very adaptable for using other kinds of meat. Try using cubed chicken breasts, Italian sausage, ground chicken, or ground turkey in place of the beef.
You can also leave the beef out entirely and replace it with sautéed veggies for a vegetarian-friendly ziti.
Tips for Perfect Beef Ziti
- Use pre-made marinara sauce – this speeds along prep for this ziti. If you would like to use homemade marinara you will need about 4 cups.
- Layer ziti – we layer the cheeses and the sauced pasta in the casserole dish so you get those wonderful baked cheesy layers.
- Broil ziti – this step is optional, but we like doing it so the edges get a little crispy and the cheese gets a lovely golden brown.
- Top ziti with fresh basil – this adds a fresh little pop of herby flavor to the ziti.
Try these ideas for a different twist on this ziti.
- Add veggies – try adding sautéed mushrooms, zucchini, sweet pepper, or eggplant to ziti for a healthy kick.
- Try different cheeses – try fresh mozzarella, burrata, asiago, Monterey jack, or gouda.
- Use a different pasta shape – this recipe works well with any short cut of pasta such as penne, farfalle, shells, or elbows.
Make Ahead Instructions
Follow these instructions for time-saving make ahead tips.
- Build the sauce – the beef marinara sauce can be made up and stored in refrigerator up to 6 days.
- Cook the pasta – cook the pasta and store in refrigerator up to 6 days.
- Assemble the ziti – assemble the ziti in the pan and store in refrigerator up to 3 days before baking. If baking from cold, add an additional 5-10 minutes to bake time.
- Storing leftovers – leftovers of this ziti store well in refrigerator up to 6 days.
This beef ziti is just that purely nostalgic comfort food we all know and love! The 3 cheeses really kick up the indulgence factor of this ziti and make it feel like a luxurious weeknight dinner.
It’ll be our little secret that this was the EASIEST dinner ever to pull off!
Save this recipe using the ‘save to recipe box’ button below. If you make it, please let us know! Leave a comment + star rating below, or take a photo and tag it on Instagram with #wholeandheavenlyoven.
More cozy pasta dishes to make next!
3 Cheese Beef Ziti
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- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 2 jars (23 oz each) marinara sauce
- 1 lb pasta (ziti, rigatoni, penne, etc) cooked according to package instructions
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1-1/2 cups shredded low-moisture mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Fresh basil for topping
- Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish and set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown ground beef and onion until no longer pink. Drain grease from pan and season beef with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add marinara sauce to ground beef mixture and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and fold in cooked pasta until evenly coated.
- Spoon half of pasta mixture into prepared pan and top with half of ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Repeat layers one more time ending with Parmesan cheese.
- Bake ziti at 400F 25-30 minutes until cheese is lightly browned and sauce is bubbly. Optionally, broil ziti 2-3 minutes to crisp up the cheese. Top ziti with fresh basil and serve warm. Enjoy!
This post was updated with new recipe adjustments and photos on 10/4/23.