Our gluten-free baked ziti recipe is a cheesy, saucy baked pasta made with sausage and three kinds of cheese!
This back to school season has me in easy dinner mode, and we’re relying on a lot of quick, simple meals, one pot wonders, and family classics I know everyone will enjoy.
Could there be a better time to make gluten-free baked ziti? I think not!
Baked ziti is kind of like freeform lasagna! It’s channeling a lot of the same flavors–hearty sausage or meat, red sauce, tender pasta, and plenty of gooey, melty cheesy goodness. It’s the ultimate comfort food, and a great meal to bring to friends or neighbors who could use some extra help!
A longtime classic family dinner, this pasta casserole is an easy meal for a crowd, easy enough for a weeknight, and delicious enough to work into your regular dinner rotation.
Our version relies on simple ingredients that deliver BIG flavor without a lot of fuss. Here’s what you need to make our easy gluten-free baked ziti recipe…
Simple Ingredients For Baked Ziti:
- Gluten-Free Pasta. Most gluten-free pasta brands don’t actually ofter ziti noodles. Instead, you’ll probably need to reach for gluten-free penne or gluten-free rigatoni. My favorite gluten-free pasta for this is this gluten-free penne (a brown rice pasta), but check out the section below for more options.
- Sausage. I love making baked ziti with sausage! It adds so much delicious flavor. You can keep things light by using turkey Italian sausage or chicken Italian sausage, or check out the FAQ for other options!
- Garlic. Fresh garlic adds a layer of flavor that you just don’t quite get from garlic powder.
- Marinara Sauce & Tomato Sauce. To give this gluten-free baked pasta recipe a hearty, saucy texture. While some recipes used crushed tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes, my family prefers the texture and flavor of this marinara + tomato sauce combo.
- Some Simple Seasonings. Kosher salt, black pepper, and dried oregano go a long way. I love to add a little pinch of red pepper flakes, but this it totally optional.
- Fresh Basil. You don’t *have* to include fresh basil, but I feel like it adds a touch of lightness and freshness to this hearty baked pasta. I love the color and flavor!
- Lots of Cheese. Different baked ziti recipes call for different cheeses, but we’re using creamy ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan. (Some recipes swap cottage cheese in for the ricotta or add a layer of provolone.)
BrAnds OF Gluten-Free Pasta To Try
Ziti is a smooth tubular pasta that’s usually made without ridges. Most gluten-free pasta brands don’t make gluten-free ziti noodles and only only offer penne or rigatoni. Either of those shapes will work well here! Ideally, you want something tube-shaped for a similar bake time.
Keep in mind that bean-based pastas and high protein pastas (made with peas, lentils, beans, or quinoa) can get gummy or crumbly when boiled and baked. For the best texture, I prefer corn or rice-based pasta in this recipe. Here are a few brands of gluten-free pasta to try in baked ziti:
Corn & Rice Based Pasta:
- Jovial Brown Rice Penne – This is my pick for the best taste and texture!
- Le Veneziane
- Full Circle Rigatoni
- Barilla Gluten-Free Penne
- Ronzoni Gluten-Free Penne
- Garofalo Penne
Higher Protein Pasta: Quinoa, Beans, Lentils, Etc.
- Ancient Harvest Penne – Corn, brown rice, and quinoa pasta
- Bionaturae Penne – Rice & Lentil
- Banza Ziti – High protein chickpea pasta
- Kaisen Gluten-Free Ziti – High protein made with lupini beans
How To MAke This Baked Pasta, Step By Step:
- Preheat The Oven To 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a large casserole dish (at least 9×13 and preferably a deep one!)
- Cook The Pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and cook the pasta 1 minute less than the package directions (you want some bite–al dente!). Drain the pasta and return it to the pot (off the heat).
- Brown The Sausage. While the pasta is cooking, brown the sausage in a skillet over medium heat until the sausage is cooked through. If you have a lot of extra fat in the pan, you can drain this, but if there’s only a little, I usually leave it in. (If you’re using a lower-fat option, like turkey sausage or chicken sausage, you’ll likely need to add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan so it doesn’t stick.)
- Mix Up The Sauce. To the browned sausage, add garlic, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes (if using). Stir about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Mix in marinara sauce, tomato sauce and fresh basil and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and set the sauce aside.
- Mix Pasta With The Sauce. Add the tomato sauce mixture to the pot with the drained pasta and stir to combine.
- Layer The Pasta. Add half of the pasta to your prepared baking dish. Dollop with the ricotta cheese, then cover with the remaining sauce. Top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
- Bake. Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake 20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and bake another 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
- Serve & Store. Sprinkle with a little extra fresh basil, if desired, and enjoy the pasta right away. Store leftover baked ziti covered in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
Make-Ahead & Freezer Tips:
Work ahead. If you’ve got time in the morning, you can absolutely mix this up and pop it in the fridge while you’re at work. Then, in the evening, you can pop it into the oven while you make a salad or cut up some veggies to go with it.
Don’t have time to prep it all? Work on the components! Even if you can’t prep the whole dish before you leave for work in the morning, you can brown the sausage and mix up the sauce, grate cheese, or set out a pot of water for the pasta later. Every little bit of prep helps!
Make It A Freezer Meal!
Baked pasta dishes like this gluten-free baked ziti work really well as freezer meals. You have two choices here:
- Divide The Recipe In Half and freeze it for later. Mix up the recipe as recommended, but before baking, divide it between to 8×8 or 9×9 baking dishes instead of one 9×13 pan. Cover one pan with aluminum foil (or a layer of plastic wrap and then foil for a tighter seal) and freeze for another day.
- Make It 100% As A Freezer Meal. You can also make this as a freezer meal (great for travel, prepping for a baby or surgery, or getting ahead during a busy season). Mix up the recipe and instead of baking, cover the pan with foil (or a layer of plastic wrap and then foil for a tighter seal) and freeze for another day.
I recommend flexible foil baking trays for this so they don’t warp in the freezer. To bake from the freezer, remove the foil/plastic wrap and place the frozen pan in your COLD oven, then set it to preheat and cook as usual. Plan to add 5-10 minutes to the bake time.
FAQ + Tips And Tricks For The Best Gluten-Free Baked Ziti:
Try It With Some Veggies! You can also make it with some extra veggies. Try sautéed mushrooms and spinach, some grated zucchini, or some sautéed bell pepper and diced onions! (Or mix in your favorite roasted veggies)
Make It Vegetarian! You can absolutely make this as a gluten-free vegetarian baked ziti by leaving out the sausage. Serve it with just the cheese, or add some veggies to fill it out a little more.
Can I Use Beef Instead of Sausage? If you’d prefer to use ground meat (ground turkey, ground beef or ground chicken) instead of sausage, you absolutely can. Just know you’ll be missing out on a lot of added flavor. I recommend adding a generous sprinkle or two or three of Italian seasoning & a pinch of red pepper flakes to make up for this.
⭐ Don’t forget to leave a star review and comment below when you make our Gluten-Free Baked Ziti recipe. I can’t wait to hear how it goes!Print