Vegetable Baked Ziti
This vegetable packed vegetarian Baked Ziti is the ultimate weeknight dinner. With sautéed veggies and spinach ricotta, it’s a healthy comfort food you’ll feel good about diving into.
There’s nothing I love more than closing a productive day of work with a warm, hearty comfort dish. And let me tell you, this vegetable baked ziti does the trick.
It’s cheesy, savory, and very filling, but it doesn’t feel heavy in the stomach. Which is probably due to the generous amount of veggies that are included! This easy meatless baked ziti is filled with a delicious combination of zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper, white onion, marinara, and so much more. Plus, packed with ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan, it’s a cheesy dish that everyone will love.
Baked ziti is like lasagna’s laid back sister. No fussing with perfectly fitting the noodles or cooking the bechamel. Just stir everything together, layer it up, and bake. 💪🏼
It’s the kind of dinner you can throw in a bowl and cozy up on the couch with. Or slowly pick at all week long. Or impress your dinner guests with. This baked ziti is whatever you need it to be.
Here’s what you’ll need
This healthy baked ziti is made with three main components: the pasta, the sauce, and the ricotta mixture. Let’s dive into each and talk about what’s included!
Pasta: As far as the pasta goes, there’s a lot of wiggle room. Sure, baked ziti technically uses ziti noodles, but using a different shape won’t totally mess up your recipe. If you can’t find ziti noodles, go for penne or rigatoni!
Sauce: Next up, we have the sauce. It comes as a surprise to some, but the sauce is the most important part of Italian pasta dishes like this ziti! It carries all the flavor (and nutrition) of the dish.
For this sauce, we’re using zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper, white onion, garlic, olive oil, oregano, basil and salt. As you can see, this is truly a veggie-packed dish! Feel free to add or omit different veggies depending on what you have on hand. Mini peppers, red onion, mushrooms, etc. will all work well!
Mix those the vegetables and spices with some marinara, and you have a delicious sauce on your hands. If you want to go full homemade on this dish and need a good marinara recipe, try out my Fresh Tomato Marinara (perfect for using up fresh tomatoes)!
Ricotta: Finally, it’s time for the ricotta! This portion of the recipe will include ricotta, frozen spinach (thawed), and parmesan. It’s a delicious blend that gives the ziti its familiar thick and cheesy texture. (While I prefer bechamel sauce on lasagna, ricotta works better for baked ziti – and it’s easier! Learn how to make ricotta in the microwave in just 5 minutes.)
In addition to the ricotta mixture, we’ll also be using an easy parmesan and mozzarella blend to sprinkle in the middle and on top (hellooooo cheese).
How to make vegetarian baked ziti
This meal requires 30 minutes of prep time as well as 30 minutes of baking time. In just an hour, you have a warm, bubbling tray of delicious vegetable filled baked ziti!
Step 1: Cook the pasta
First, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and then add a generous spoonful of salt (it should taste like ocean water). Add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the package, until al dente – it should still have some bite to it. When finished, drain and set aside.
Step 2: Prep the veggies
Next, prep all of the veggies, finely dicing them so they’re about the same size. Add oil to a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the zucchini, eggplant, pepper, onion, and garlic. Cook until they’re slightly softened, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Step 3: Prepare the sauce
Add marinara and oregano to the veggies, cover, and let gently simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the basil, and add salt to suit your taste (about ¼ tsp). Stir 3 cups of the vegetable sauce into the pot of pasta, leaving the remaining sauce in the pan.
Step 4: Create the ricotta mix
To create the ricotta mix, stir the ricotta, thawed spinach, and parmesan together. Fold the ricotta mixture into the pasta, leaving large clumps of ricotta.
Step 5: Mix the cheese
Next, create what will be the cheese layers by stirring together the mozzarella and parmesan.
Step 6: Assemble the ziti
Finally, it’s time to assemble the ziti! Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Spread half of the sauce onto the bottom of a 9×13 inch (or similar sized) casserole dish. Then, layer in the following order:
- Half of the pasta
- Half of the cheese
- Remaining half of the pasta
- Remaining half of the sauce
- Remaining half of the cheese
Step 7: Bake
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and melted and the sauce is bubbling around the outside. If the cheese browns too quickly, cover the dish with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for a few minutes before digging in!
Baked ziti pro tips
Check out these tips and tricks to learn how to make the perfect moist baked ziti, prepare the dish for the future, or store your leftovers!
Layer as directed
Be sure to layer your ziti as directed in the instructions. The layers go in a specific order that allow the dish cook to perfection! For example, the sauce that’s layered just under the top layer of cheese is there to keep the ziti from drying out.
How to keep your ziti extra moist
If you find that your meatless baked ziti turned out to be too dry, there are a few things you can do to prevent this the next time. First, be sure that you’re using the amount of sauce as called for in the recipe. Too little sauce can make for a dry bake.
Second, feel free to try the foil method. Place a layer of greased (use cooking spray) aluminum foil over the top of your bake, oiled side down. This helps lock in moisture as it cooks. Remove the foil about 10 minutes before the bake comes out of the oven to allow the cheese to brown up.
How to make ziti ahead of time
You can make this dish ahead of time and have it ready to pop in the oven 30 minutes before it’s time to eat. Feel free to prepare and assemble your ziti, wrap or cover it, and then stick it in the refrigerator overnight to serve the next day. When ready to cook, remove from the fridge, remove the wrap, and bake as directed.
You can also freeze prepared ziti for up to a month. When ready to cook, allow the ziti to thaw, and then bake as directed.
How to store leftovers
Store any extra ziti in the refrigerator. Keep it in an airtight container and eat within 5 days.
Sides great for pairing with baked ziti
- Roasted Asparagus with Romesco Sauce
- Quinoa Kale Salad
- Vegetarian Caesar Salad
- Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts
Vegetarian Baked Ziti
- 1 lb uncooked ziti pasta can sub penne or rigatoni, 450 g
- 1 zucchini diced
- 1 eggplant diced
- 1 bell pepper diced
- 1 cup diced white onion about 1 onion
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil 30 mL
- 4 cups marinara sauce 32 oz, 900 g
- 1 tsp oregano
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- salt to taste
- 1 15-oz package ricotta cheese 425 g
- 10 oz frozen spinach thawed, 283 g
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese 15 g
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella 100 g
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese 15 g
- Pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add a generous spoon of salt (it should taste like ocean water). Add pasta and cook according to the instructions on the package, until al dente. When finished, drain and set aside.
- Veggies: Prep all veggies, finely dicing them so they're about the same size. Add oil to a large saute pan over medium heat. Add zucchini, eggplant, pepper, onion, and garlic, cooking until they're slightly softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Sauce: Add marinara and oregano to the veggies, cover, and let gently simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in basil, and add salt to suit your taste, about ¼ tsp. Stir 3 cups of the vegetable sauce into the pot of pasta, leaving remaining sauce in the pan.
- Ricotta Mix: Stir together ricotta, thawed spinach, and parmesan. Fold ricotta mixture into pasta, leaving large clumps of ricotta.
- Cheese: Stir together mozzarella and parmesan.
- Assemble: Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Spread ½ of the sauce onto the bottom of a 9×13 inch (or similar sized) casserole dish. Then layer ½ of the pasta > ½ of the cheese > remaining ½ of the pasta > remaining ½ of the sauce > remaining ½ of the cheese.
- Baked: For about 30 minutes, or until cheese is golden and melted, and sauce is bubbling around the outside. If the cheese browns too quickly, cover the dish with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 5 days.
- Make ahead by either making the components and storing them separately, or assembling and sealing tightly. Can be prepped 24 hours in advance.
- Can be frozen to be baked later. Freeze prepared ziti for up to a month. When ready to cook, allow the ziti to thaw in the refrigerator, then bake as directed.