The best of pizza and pasta come together in this fun “Pizza” Baked Ziti recipe! It’s 100% customizable with all of your favorite pizza toppings, super easy to make, and total comfort food.
I’ve got a fun new dinner idea that needs to go on your next meal plan stat…
…this “pizza” baked ziti! ♡
Yep, it’s the best of both worlds when your favorite pizza toppings and a hot and bubbly pan of baked ziti combine forces. And thanks to a few simple shortcuts, it turns out that this fun fusion recipe is actually incredibly easy to make too!
All you need is a package of pasta, your favorite marinara sauce (homemade or store-bought), shredded cheese, and a collection of your favorite pizza toppings to bring this recipe together. (Which makes this a perfect recipe to clean out the produce drawer, by the way, while also giving you the option to make this baked ziti gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian or vegan if you would like.) Then after a few simple steps of prep, this gorgeous casserole can be baking away in the oven and on the table ready to serve in no time!
It’s a totally fun and flexible recipe to customize with whatever pizza toppings you love best. So round up your faves, and let’s make some pizza baked ziti together!
Pizza Baked Ziti Ingredients:
First, a few quick ingredient notes. As mentioned above, the ingredients for this recipe are 100% customizable, so please feel free to add in whatever you love best. You will need:
Pasta: I recommend using some sort of tube pasta for this recipe, such as ziti, rigatoni or penne. But really, just about any kind of pasta that you have on hand should work! (Feel free to use gluten-free pasta, if you prefer.)
Marinara sauce: I took a shortcut and used store-bought marinara sauce (one 24-ounce jar) for this recipe to save time. But of course, homemade marinara sauce (you would need to make a double batch of this recipe) would be even more delicious if you have the time!
Cheese: The amount of cheese that you use in this casserole is up to you. I recommend lots of mozzarella (either shredded or sliced), plus a generous sprinkle of freshly-grated Parmesan to add some extra nutty/salty flavor.
Favorite Pizza Toppings: The pizza toppings that you would like to include are completely up to you! Because the toppings won’t be flash-cooked at very high heat as they would in a pizza oven, I recommend sautéing any raw meat (such as hamburger or sausage) or veggies (such as mushrooms, onions, etc) that need to be cooked before adding them to the casserole. Some possible pizza toppings could include:
Meats: Pepperoni, sausage, hamburger, ham, bacon, chicken, etc.
Veggies: Mushrooms, spinach, onions (red or yellow), olives, bell peppers, pepperoncini peppers, jalapeño peppers, squash, fresh Italian herbs
Garnishes: Finally, the garnishes are up to you as well! I highly recommend topping each serving with an extra sprinkle of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese. But you could also sprinkle on some chopped fresh basil, toasted nuts, crushed red pepper flakes, and/or whatever sounds best to you.
How To Make Pizza Baked Ziti:
Here’s a quick overview of the steps for how to make this pizza baked ziti recipe:
Cook the pasta. First, cook the pasta until it is just a minute or so shy of al dente. (The pasta will continue cooking in the casserole, so try to avoid overcooking it in this first step.)
Sauté the meat (if using) and any veggies that need to be softened. While the pasta cooks, go ahead and sauté any meat (I browned some Italian sausage) and veggies (I used mushrooms, bell peppers, and red onions) that need to be cooked and softened before they are added to the casserole.
Combine. Then combine the cooked pasta, cooked meat, cooked veggies, marinara sauce, plus any extra pizza toppings that you would like to include in the casserole in your large stockpot, and toss to combine.
Layer the casserole. Layer half of the pasta mixture in a 9 x 13-inch pan, followed by half of the mozzarella and Parmesan. Layer the second half of the pasta mixture, followed by half of the mozzarella (plus any extra toppings you would like to sprinkle on top as decor).
Bake. Then bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and golden and the casserole is heated through.
Serve. And dish it up nice and hot, topped with a generous sprinkle of your favorite garnishes!
This recipe is ultra-flexible, so feel free to experiment with any variations that sound good to you! For example, feel free to…
Make it gluten-free: Use your favorite gluten-free pasta, and be sure to double-check that all of the other ingredients you are using are certified gluten-free as well.
Make it vegetarian or vegan: Nix the meat, of course. Then if you would like to make this recipe dairy-free and vegan, use your favorite shredded vegan cheese(s).
Make it spicy: Feel free to stir your desired amount of crushed red pepper flakes directly into the marinara sauce if you would like to give the entire pan of baked ziti some extra heat. Or alternately, you can just sprinkle them on top of your own individual serving.
Use Alfredo sauce: If you would like to make a creamier casserole, feel free to sub in creamy Alfredo sauce in place of the tomato marinara sauce.
More Italian Casserole Recipes:
Looking for more easy Italian casserole recipes to try? Here are a few of my faves!
The best of pizza and pasta come together in this fun “Pizza” Baked Ziti recipe! I used traditional supreme pizza ingredients in the recipe below, but the pizza toppings (meat, veggies, garnishes, etc) that you include are completely up to you.
12 ounces uncooked pasta (such as ziti, rigatoni or penne)
1 pound ground Italian sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 to 4 cups sliced veggies (such as bell peppers, red onion, mushrooms, etc)
1 to 2 cups extra pizza toppings (such as olives, pepperoni, pepperoncini, etc)
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
optional toppings: fresh basil, crushed red pepper flakes, extra Parmesan
Heat the oven. Heat the oven to 375°F.
Cook the pasta. Heat a large stockpot of generously-salted water until boiling. Add the pasta (around the same time that you begin sautéing any veggies, see below) and cook the pasta until it is 1 minute shy of al dente. Drain the pasta completely and set aside.
Sauté the sausage (if using).* Heat a large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, crumbling the sausage with a wooden spoon as you go. Transfer the cooked sausage to a clean bowl and set aside.
Sauté any veggies that need to be cooked.* Add the oil to the sauté pan, followed by any veggies that need to be pre-cooked (see note below). Sauté the veggies for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.
Combine. Return the cooked pasta to the large stockpot and add in the cooked sausage, cooked veggies, marinara sauce and any extra pizza toppings that you would like to bake into the casserole. (I recommend reserving a small handful of toppings to sprinkle on top of the casserole, if you would like.) Toss until evenly combined.
Layer the casserole. In a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish, add half of the pasta mixture and spread it out in an even layer. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese evenly on top of the pasta. Then add the remaining pasta mixture in an even layer, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella evenly on top of the pasta, and finish with a sprinkle of your reserved pizza toppings.
Bake. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and golden and the casserole is heated through. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack.
Serve. Serve the baked ziti while it is nice and hot, garnished with your favorite toppings.
Pre-cooking meats and veggies: Any raw meat (such as Italian sausage, hamburger, chicken, etc.) will need to be pre-cooked before adding it to the casserole. Also, the veggies in the casserole will cook slightly as the casserole bakes. But if there are some veggies that you prefer to eat completely cooked/softened (perhaps such as mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, etc), I recommend pre-cooking them as well before adding them to the casserole. I recommend simply sautéing the meat and veggies, as directed in the recipe above.