This classic Baked Zitti Bolognese is a delicious baked pasta dish packed with turkey bolognese, tons of veggies, and delicious melted mozzarella cheese. Great to prep and freeze for a make ahead meal.
This baked ziti bolognese recipe is a gooey, cheesy, comforting casserole filled with tomatoes, herbs, and hidden veggies. It is the perfect meal to put together as a freezer meal. Highly recommended serving this baked ziti dish on a busy night for dinner!
To be completely honest, I am not the biggest pasta eater. Generally, if it isn’t fresh homemade pasta, it is not something that I would reach for. However, every once in a while, especially on a cold night, I crave baked ziti full of oozy, gooey cheesy goodness.
Surprisingly, with a few simple twists, you can make a delicious and completely diet-friendly version of baked ziti bolognese. Serve with a green salad, and it’s a perfect, quick, simple meal on a cold night.
This is also the perfect dish to make for friends and neighbors since it can be prepped in advance and just heated in the oven. Make it to help a friend with a new baby at home, to comfort a friend going through a hard time, or just to give the gift of a meal to someone you love.
Key Ingredients For Baked Ziti
The list of ingredients includes fresh herbs, tomatoes, and lots of cheese. All of them keep the recipe high in fiber and low in calories! Here's a bit more information about them.
- Ziti pasta: I always suggest you use high-fiber or whole wheat pasta. This way, it lowers the impact on your blood sugar. Regular pasta also works great.
- Ground turkey: To keep things light, I used lean ground turkey. You could also use ground beef, ground turkey sausage, ground chicken, or vegetarian crumbles.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic cloves will pack the biggest punch! If you don't have garlic cloves, then garlic powder can work just as well.
- Onion: Any type of onion is fine for this dish. Just make sure it is diced really small. Save yourself time and use frozen diced onion.
- Fresh Herbs: I used fresh thyme and basil. If you don't have fresh herbs, you can use dried herbs instead. However, fresh herbs will have the best flavor.
- Vegetables: This dish is packed with vegetables. I used zucchini, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers. The zucchini adds fiber and nutrition to this baked casserole. Dice it up nice and small, so it mixes well with the pasta. Feel free to swap in any veggies you like.
- Italian Crushed Tomatoes: Combining the marinara sauce with crushed tomatoes is a great way to stretch the sauce. It can also be a great way to reduce the calories or points in the recipe since crushed tomatoes don't have any added oil or ingredients.
- Spices: In addition to the salt and pepper, add some red pepper flakes for a little heat. The red pepper flakes are optional, but I love the subtle heat it adds.
- Cheese: I used both mozzarella and parmesan cheese. While shredded mozzarella will work just fine, fresh mozzarella will have a fuller flavor and melt even better.
What To Serve With Baked Ziti Bolognese
This casserole is an entire meal on its own. It even has veggies baked right into it! If you want to add a few more things to the table, consider adding light bread and a salad. For the bread, make a Caprese flatbread. It has a drool-inducing balsamic glaze with fresh basil.
There are a bunch of different salad ideas you can serve with this casserole. Since bolognese is Italian, make an easy arugula salad. It has lots of the same herbs and spices. Of course, you can never go wrong with a healthy Ceasar salad too!
Recipe Tips And Ideas
Follow these tips to make sure that this pasta casserole turns out perfectly every single time!
- Prepare the pasta ahead of time to save yourself time in the kitchen. You can keep fully cooked pasta in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Cook pasta to al dente. Run it under cold water to stop the cooking process. You need the pasta to be al dente because it will continue to cook in the oven.
- You will know it is finished cooking when the cheese begins to brown and bubble.
Freezing, Storing, and Reheating Baked Pasta
- Assemble and refrigerate: Follow all the directions to assemble the baked ziti and then store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake it. Just cover it with foil. When ready to bake it, just add 10-15 minutes to the baking time to ensure everything is warmed through and bubbling.
- Assemble and freeze: Assemble the pasta bake and then cover it in plastic wrap and foil. Then place it in the freezer. For best results, pull it out of the freezer the night before and let it defrost in the fridge for 24 hours. Then just add about 15 minutes to the baking time in the recipe. If it is being baked from frozen, try to let it defrost slightly for 30 minutes on the counter. Then cover with foil and bake for 60-75 minutes until bubbling and warmed through.
- Bake and freeze: If you have already baked the ziti, first let it fully cool and come to room temperature. Cover it with foil and reheat it in a 350 degree oven for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size of the pan. It should bubble up and be fully reheated.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions I frequently get asked about by some readers…
Do you need to cover ziti when baking?
If the baked ziti is being baked from scratch, there is no reason to cover it since it is cooking at a relatively low temperature. The top shouldn't burn. If you notice the top cooking too quickly, you can add some foil while it cooks to prevent the top from browning too much. If you are cooking it from the fridge or freezer, cover it with foil for at least the first 30 minutes so the top doesn't burn.
What is the best kind of high-fiber pasta?
Honestly, this is a personal preference. Just look for one that is made with whole grains and has plenty of fiber in it. Ezekiel 4:9 is made with sprouted whole grains, and people love how much fiber it has. Ronzoni Smart Taste also has a line of high-fiber pasta too.
What can I use instead of ground turkey?
You can use any type of ground meat or even extra firm tofu as the protein in this pasta. If you use ground chicken, I suggest adding a little bit more tomatoes and spices to make the flavors stand out.
What other types of vegetables can I add?
This is the fun part! You can add any type of vegetable you want. Just remember to dice them up really small, so they mix in with the tomatoes, pasta, and cheese. Try it with summer squash, butternut squash, carrots, and even asparagus spears.
Can I make this in the slow cooker?
Yes, you can make pasta casseroles in the slow cooker. If you do, I suggest adding the noodles to it uncooked. Otherwise, they will overcook and become slightly mushy. Cook this casserole in the slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours.
How do you store leftover ziti bolognese?
The best way to store leftover ziti bolognese is in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for up to 3 days. After three days, the flavor and the texture will start to deteriorate!
Can I use a different pasta shape?
The best substitutes for ziti would be rigatoni or penne in this baked pasta dish. You could use any small to medium-shaped pasta. Spaghetti and longer pasta won't work quite as well.
More Delicious Baked Pasta Recipes You’ll Love:
Baked Ziti Bolognese
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- 1 lb 99% lean ground turkey
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup onion, diced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
- 2 jarred roasted red peppers, diced
- 28 oz canned Italian crushed tomatoes
- 24 oz marinara sauce (or your favorite pasta sauce)
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 lb. whole wheat pasta (ziti)
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella, diced (or bocconcini, divided)
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
First, you need to make your bolognese sauce. Spray a large pot with cooking spray and brown the ground turkey for about 5 minutes. Then add in the onion, garlic, basil, and thyme, and continue to cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Add the zucchini, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, crushed tomatoes, marinara sauce, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Let simmer for ten minutes.
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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