Cheesy Baked Ziti With Beef

Cheesy baked ziti with beef in a white casserole dish

The Spruce Eats / Emily Baker

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
383 Calories
21g Fat
17g Carbs
32g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 383
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21g 27%
Saturated Fat 8g 42%
Cholesterol 94mg 31%
Sodium 1057mg 46%
Total Carbohydrate 17g 6%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 32g
Vitamin C 25mg 126%
Calcium 286mg 22%
Iron 4mg 22%
Potassium 811mg 17%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

There are endless versions of baked ziti, all wonderfully delicious. Some are covered in a generous layer of cheese and moistened by a tomato-based sauce with ground beef, but others are made without meat and with other variations on the sauce, like pesto or sour cream. Each cook has a favorite combination, the perfect ratio of cheeses, and their preferred sauce, but it's fair to say that all baked zitis make a wonderful and easy weeknight dinner, as you can pretty much put in it anything you'd like that you have at hand. Our ziti casserole is a flavorful combination of seasoned tomato sauce with ground beef, baked to perfection with a melty mozzarella cheese topping.

Traditionally served in Southern Italy back in the day when the bride, the zita, needed to present her new husband a lunch, ziti comes from the slang term that referred to such young ladies. Baked ziti was also part of the nuptial meal. The Americanized version has added and subtracted ingredients, but nowadays anything and everything can go in such a casserole and there is no one traditional recipe.

Use any short pasta, but go for a tubular pasta as it best soaks up the sauce. Easy to prepare, assemble the night before, cover and refrigerate, and simply pop in the oven when it's time to eat. Serve with a green salad and some garlic bread.


  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 pound lean ground beef, ground chuck, or ground round

  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped

  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or 1 small minced clove garlic

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste

  • 8 ounces ziti pasta

  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Cheesy Baked Ziti with Beef ingredients gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Emily Baker

  2. Heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly butter a 2 1/2-quart baking dish. Bring a big pot of water to a boil.

    Buttered casserole dish

    The Spruce Eats / Emily Baker

  3. Drizzle the olive oil in a very large skillet or sauté pan and place it over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the ground beef, onion, and green bell pepper. Cook, stirring until the onion is tender and the beef is no longer pink.

    Ground beef with peppers and onions in a frying pan

    The Spruce Eats / Emily Baker

  4. Drain off the excess fat and then add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer.

    Ground beef, tomatoes, onions and green peppers in a pan

    The Spruce Eats / Emily Baker

  5. While the meat is simmering, cook the ziti in the boiling salted water until just al dente. The pasta needs to still have some bite as it will continue cooking in the oven. Set aside.

    Ziti pasta in a pot of water

    The Spruce Eats / Emily Baker

  6. Add the cooked pasta and half of the mozzarella cheese to the pan with the meat sauce.

    Tomato sauce, ground beef and ziti in a pan

    The Spruce Eats / Emily Baker

  7. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.

    Ziti, tomato sauce and ground beef in a casserole dish

    The Spruce Eats / Emily Baker

  8. Top the casserole with the remaining mozzarella cheese.

    Unbaked ziti with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese in a casserole dish

    The Spruce Eats / Emily Baker

  9. Bake the ziti for 25 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

    Cheesy Baked Ziti with Beef baked in a casserole dish

    The Spruce Eats / Emily Baker

  10. Serve hot and enjoy!

    Cheesy Baked Ziti with Beef in a Casserole Dish

    The Spruce Eats / Emily Baker

Make Ahead or Freeze

This is a great dish for a make-ahead dinner. Simply assemble the casserole and wrap it tightly in foil. Refrigerate overnight and allow the dish to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking as directed.

For freezing, assemble the casserole in a freezer-safe dish but do not bake. Cover tightly with foil or plastic wrap and keep for up to 3 months. Allow the dish to thaw overnight before baking it as directed. Add extra mozzarella cheese and a drizzle of olive oil if needed.

Recipe Variations

There are as many recipes for ziti as there are cooks. Here are some of our favorite takes on this dish:

  • Add an extra 8-ounce can of tomato sauce for saucier casserole, or 1 cup of heavy cream. In either case, adjust the seasoning accordingly.
  • Replace the ground beef with 1 pound of bulk Italian sausage, ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground venison. Brown as directed with the onion and bell pepper.
  • Replace the mozzarella cheese with a pizza cheese blend, an Italian cheese blend, or cheddar and mozzarella. For a cheesier version, sprinkle with 3/4 cup of Parmesan on top of the mozzarella layer.
  • Add 2 cups of steamed broccoli or cauliflower florets into the mixture. Alternatively, add 3 cups of baby spinach into the pan at the same time as you're adding the tomato sauce.