This no boil Baked Ziti with Meatballs is the perfect make-ahead meal for when you are short on time.
Baked Pasta: Great For Making Ahead
There is something incredibly comforting about a baked pasta.
While I love a good, loose pasta with sauce, Tim is mildly obsessed with the hearty, cheesy, and slightly crusty baked version. And, he’s right, there’s something about that slightly different texture and stringy, melty goodness of a baked pasta.
Even better, baked pastas are great for making ahead. Sure, you can bake them right away, but they’re just as good prepped ahead and refrigerated for a day, or even frozen for a day down the road when you don’t have the time to cook.
Making The Perfect No Boil Baked Ziti with Meatballs
When making baked pasta, moisture levels in the sauce are key. Some recipes will have you start with cooked noodles, in which case the sauce needs to be a bit thicker. But, boiling the pasta just seems like an unnecessary step to us. We eliminate the extra prep by using dry pasta and a thinner sauce.
But, using cooked or uncooked noodles, making baked pasta can be a bit of an art. We’ve found there are three keys to a perfect (and easy) baked pasta.
Covering while baking traps in the moisture, giving it nowhere to go but into the dry noodles. Your pasta is done when you can insert a knife smoothly into the center of the dish.
Uncovering to finish the dish for a final 15 minutes of baking ensures the top layer of cheese gets nice and golden (And, it means the cheese won’t stick to the foil. Because, let’s face it, there’s nothing more disappointing than when you take the foil off of a baked pasta dish and all that cheese comes right off with it.)
Resting the dish on the counter for 10 minutes before serving will let the pasta absorb any remaining moisture. Tent it loosely with foil if the pasta looks fairly dry, but leave it uncovered (to steam) if the dish seems too moist.
Our Baked Ziti with Meatballs Recipe
We love adding chunks of meat or veggies to our baked pasta dishes. Italian sausage or homemade meatballs, are definitely our favorite meaty add-ins.
It’s all the comfort of a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, made in one dish!
Baked Ziti with Meatballs
For the Sauce (yields roughly 4 cups of thin sauce)
- 1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes, un-drained
- 1 (6oz) can tomato paste
- 2 ¼ tsp onion powder
- 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp marjoram
- ½ tsp basil
- ½ tsp parsley
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ½ c water
- ½ c red wine
Putting It All Together
- ½ lb ziti pasta, dry
- ½ lb meatballs pre-cooked
- 1 c mozzarella cheese
- Preheat your oven to 400F.
For the Sauce
- In a medium saucepan, mix tomatoes, tomato paste, and spices. Add water and wine, and bring to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Putting It All Together
- In a greased 8x8 pan, spread 1 c of the sauce. Top with half of the dry pasta. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the pasta. Nestle all of the meatballs into the sauce. Sprinkle ½ cup of mozzarella cheese over the meatballs. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the cheese. Layer the remaining pasta over the sauce. Finally, spread the last 1 c of sauce over the pasta.
- Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 20-30 minutes, until you start to see bubbles forming around the edges.*
- Remove the dish from the oven and top with the last ½ cup of cheese.
- Return the dish to the oven and bake, uncovered, 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the dish is bubbly to the center.
- Remove the dish from the oven. Tent it loosely with aluminum foil and let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.
More casserole and baked pasta recipes:
- Baked Penne with Roasted Cauliflower and Italian Sausage from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Chicken Ramen Mini Casseroles from The Ninja Baker
- Chinese Noodle Casserole from Momma’s Meals
- Moroccan Polenta Casserole from Pancake Warriors
- Moussaka from Nosh My Way
- Southwestern Spaghetti Pie from The Messy Baker
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Sarah is one of Curious Cuisiniere’s founding duo. Her love for cultural cuisines was instilled early by her French Canadian Grandmother. Her experience in the kitchen and in recipe development comes from years working in professional kitchens. She has traveled extensively and enjoys bringing the flavors of her travels back to create easy-to-make recipes.