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Olive Garden Baked Ziti (copycat)

Recreate Olive Garden’s Baked Ziti at home with this copycat recipe made entirely in one pot for a quick and easy restaurant quality meal at home! This cheesy, delicious Baked Ziti is a classic Italian-American comfort food recipe with ziti pasta, and a tomato-based sauce that gets topped with cheese and baked until bubbly and golden brown!

With a love of Olive Garden’s Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno combined with my love for this recipe for Easy Skillet Baked Ziti, I decided to develop an irresistible copycat recipe for Olive Garden’s Baked Ziti. The combination of cheeses in this recipe: mozzarella, asiago, Romano, parmesan, and cottage cheese make this a comforting, cheesy pasta bake that you can easily make at home. Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the cheese with this recipe! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do! Ashley

Olive Garden Baked Ziti Ingredients

Only a few ingredients are needed to make this Olive Garden copycat recipe at home:

  • Italian Sausage: you can also substitute ground beef or ground turkey
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic and red pepper flake: these ingredients add a punch of flavor and a bit of heat. Feel free to omit the red pepper flake.
  • Marinara sauce: I like to use Rao’s marinara sauce and I find that Costco always has the best pricing. Use whatever pasta sauce you enjoy the most.
  • Water
  • Seasoning: salt, pepper, Italian seasoning
  • Heavy Cream
  • Ziti pasta – other options include rotini or penne pasta

cheese:

  • mozzarella – I like to use whole milk mozzarella cheese in this recipe vs. part skim mozzarella cheese. It is best to shred your own mozzarella cheese. Whole milk mozzarella cheese has a creamier texture and melts more evenly than its part-skim counterpart.
  • parmesan cheese, asiago cheese, romano cheese: my grocery store sells a blend of the three cheeses so that I don’t have to buy each separately.
  • cottage cheese – I use small curd cottage cheese. You can also use ricotta cheese as a substitute.

Shown in the ingredient photo is an onion which I ultimately forgot to use. It happens sometimes! It was absolutely delicious without onion but feel free to sauté some chopped onion along with the meat to add more depth of flavor to this recipe.

Olive Garden baked ziti al forno ingredients

Cooking Instructions

Here is a brief overview of how to make Olive Garden’s Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno at home. Detailed instructions are found below in the recipe card.

  1. Pre-heat oven: 450 degrees F.
  2. Brown the meat: you will need a very large, deep skillet. Use an oven-safe skillet if you have one. When the meat is done, set it aside.
  3. Prepare the pasta sauce: I like to take a little help from the store with pre-made marinara sauce but I like to add garlic, red pepper flake, and a variety of cheeses to the marinara to amp up the flavor. Olive Garden uses a five cheese marinara sauce for their version.
  4. Add in ziti and water: you will use about 10 ounces of ziti for this recipe.
  5. Season, then simmer: add in salt and Italian seasoning. Adjust according to taste, then bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the ziti is cooked al dente.
  6. Add in Italian sausage: return the cooked Italian Sausage to the pan along with heavy cream and cottage cheese. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary!
  7. Assembly: if you are using an oven-safe skillet, top the ziti with mozzarella cheese and bake. If you do not have an oven-safe skillet, transfer the ziti to a casserole dish.
  8. Layering the ziti: if using a baking dish (versus using an oven-safe skillet), add half of the ziti to the casserole dish, then top with half of the cheese. Add the remaining ziti, then top with the remaining cheese.
  9. Bake: it’ll take about 10 minutes at 450 degrees for the cheese to melt and become bubbly golden brown.
  10. Cool: allow the baked ziti to cool for a few minutes before serving.
baked ziti cooking instructions

What to serve with Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti, like so many other baked pasta dishes like The Best Easy Lasagna, is best served with garlic bread and a fresh, crisp salad. Here are some suggestions of what to serve:

  • Olive Garden Breadsticks Copycat Recipe
  • Olive Garden Salad Dressing Copycat (love Olive Garden’s endless salad! You can have it at home with this dressing!)
  • Perfect Cheesy Garlic Bread
  • Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Secrets to the Olive Garden Flavor

The secrets to the Olive Garden flavor in this recipe is all with the blend of Italian cheeses!

  • Use good quality cheeses and freshly grate your mozzarella cheese!
  • The combination of cheeses makes a difference: I used mozzarella, parmesan, asiago and Romano cheese. Other delicious options include provolone and fontina cheese.

More Pasta recipes to try…

Pasta is always such a comforting, satisfying meal. If you are looking for more pasta recipes to try, here are some of our favorites:

Spicy Chicken Rigatoni {Like Buca Di Beppo}

bowl of pasta with creamy alfredo sauce

Creamy Alfredo Sauce

cajun chicken pasta

Cajun Chicken Pasta

Spaghetti Pie

bowl of Italian Chicken Sausage Pasta

Italian Chicken Sausage Pasta

I hope you enjoy this easy Olive Garden dinner made right at home! These cheesy baked ziti recipe is a favorite in this house because it’s so flavorful and I love that it’s made entirely in one pan. If you try this recipe, please leave a comment or tag me on social media. Enjoy!

Olive Garden baked ziti recipe

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Olive Garden Baked Ziti (copycat)

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Recreate Olive Garden's Baked Ziti at home with this copycat recipe made entirely in one pot for a quick and easy restaurant quality meal at home!

Course Main CourseCuisine American, ItalianKeyword pasta

Prep Time 10 minutes Cook Time 40 minutes

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flake
  • 28 ounces marinara sauce
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup asiago cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup romano cheese, shredded
  • 12 ounces ziti pasta
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ cup small curd cottage cheese
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 16 ounces whole milk mozzarella cheese shredded

Instructions

  • Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees F.
  • In a very large non-stick oven-safe skillet (if you have one), add Italian Sausage and cook. Use a large wooden spoon or spoon to break the meat up into small bite sized pieces. When it is cooked through, use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the pan, draining any excess fat. Set the meat aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the garlic and red pepper flake and cook for about a minute.
  • To the pan add in marinara, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, ¼ cup asiago cheese and ¼ cup Romano cheese. Stir to incorporate.
  • Add in water and ziti and season with 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning.
  • Cover the skillet and cook over medium to medium-high heat for about 15-20 minutes. When the ziti is almost tender, it’s done. You don’t want the ziti entirely tender because it’ll continue cooking in the oven.
  • Stir in the cooked Italian Sausage, heavy cream and cottage cheese. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
  • If you have an oven-safe skillet, sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top.
  • If you do not have an oven-safe skillet, transfer half the mixture to a baking dish. Top with half the cheese. Then add remaining ziti and top with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is all melted and bubbly. Continue baking until the cheese is lightly golden brown.
  • Allow the Skillet Baked Ziti to cool for a few minutes before serving.
  • Enjoy!

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