Kelsey’s famous baked ziti

4.75 from 36 votes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 8


  • 1 lb. cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 ½ cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 lb. ziti or rigatoni
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¾ teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 (28 oz.) jar marinara sauce, divided
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ¼-inch pieces, divided


  • 1 lb. cooked crumbled Italian sausage


  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Combine 1 lb. cottage cheese, 2 eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  • Bring a big pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and add 1 lb. pasta; cook, stirring occasionally until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through about 7 minutes. Drain pasta and leave in a colander (do not wash the pot).
  • Add 1 cup heavy cream to the pot and whisk in ¾ teaspoon cornstarch over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup marinara sauce, ½ cup basil, and ¾ cup mozzarella, then stir to combine. If using Italian sausage, add to sauce at this point.
  • Transfer cooked pasta to a 9- by-13-inch baking dish and add the sauce mixture over the top, stirring carefully to incorporate. Spread remaining marinara evenly over pasta. Sprinkle remaining ¾ cup mozzarella and ½ cup Parmesan over top. Transfer to oven and cook for 20 minutes.
  • Increase heat to low broil. Broil for 5 minutes until golden and bubbly. Cool for 10-15 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.


  • Add 1 lb. crumbled Italian sausage to this recipe by browning the sausage in a large skillet with 1 tablespoon oil until golden brown and crispy. Then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Stir the cooked sausage into the sauce mixture just before combining with the pasta.


  • Serve with a Caesar Salad and garlic bread to complete this meal.


  • Sauce: Make White Baked Ziti by swapping marinara sauce with alfredo sauce. I also like to add 3 cups baby spinach and 1 lb. cooked Italian sausage to the sauce mixture before incorporating with the pasta.
  • Gluten-free: Swap with gluten-free pasta.
  • Dairy: Swap cottage cheese for ricotta cheese.


  • Prepare recipe up until baking. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 weeks.
    To cook, pull ziti from the freezer and defrost in your refrigerator overnight. Remove plastic and replace with foil. Preheat oven to 400ºF then transfer Baked Ziti to the oven (still covered with foil) and cook for 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil, increase oven to broil and broil for 5 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.


Calories: 1017kcal | Carbohydrates: 71g | Protein: 49g | Fat: 60g | Saturated Fat: 29g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 20g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 221mg | Sodium: 3201mg | Potassium: 913mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 1836IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 559mg | Iron: 4mg