Speedy Baked Ziti


As the name of this recipe suggests, this is the fastest way to make really good baked ziti. The dish bakes up to gooey cheesy perfection in just 15 minutes.

Speedy Baked Ziti
Photo: © Pernille Pedersen
Total Time:
45 mins
8 servings

The key is to doctor good-quality jarred tomato sauce, like Rao’s, with ground meat, onion, garlic, and spices. From there, you add creamy fresh ricotta, shredded mozzarella, and flavorful Parmesan. Once the meat is browned, everything comes together quickly.


  • 1 pound ziti or penne

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 pound lean ground sirloin

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce (3 cups)

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta (about 12 ounces)

  • 1/2 pound packaged mozzarella, shredded

  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ziti to the pot and boil until just al dente. Drain and return the ziti to the pot.

  2. Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic, cover, and cook until just softened, about 2 minutes. Add the ground sirloin, crushed red pepper, and paprika; season with salt. Cook over high heat, stirring to break up the meat with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Add the marinara sauce and bring to a boil. Cover partially and cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes.

  3. Add the sauce to the ziti in the pot and stir to coat it thoroughly. Add the ricotta in large dollops and stir gently, leaving it in large clumps. Pour half of the ziti into a 9- x 13-inch baking dish and top with half of the mozzarella and Parmigiano. Repeat with the remaining ziti and cheeses.

  4. Bake the ziti on the top rack of the oven for about 15 minutes, until it's bubbling and browned. Let the ziti rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Make ahead

The recipe can be prepared through Step 3 and refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Suggested pairing

Tart-berried, medium-bodied Barbera.

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