This baked ziti recipe features roasted cauliflower florets in place of meat for a vegetarian twist on the classic Italian dish. This vegetarian pasta bake is plant-based comfort food, packed with ziti noodles, marinara sauce, and three cheeses. Ready to eat in under one hour, vegetarian baked ziti is the perfect main dish when cooking for a crowd – it also makes for excellent leftovers.
- 1 large head of cauliflower (about 2 lbs), cut into florets
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb ziti pasta
- 2 24 oz jars marinara sauce
- 1 cup full fat ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped, plus more for serving
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Put the cauliflower florets on a large baking sheet.
- Add Italian seasoning, salt, and olive oil to the cauliflower. Use your hands to toss the florets to evenly distribute the seasonings and oil.
- Bake cauliflower in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until deeply browned and fork tender.
- While the cauliflower bakes, bring 4 quarts of water in a large pot to a boil, seasoned generously with salt.
- When the cauliflower has about 10 minutes left to cook, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.
- Drain pasta and put it back in the pot. Right away, toss pasta in 1 jar of the marinara sauce to prevent the noodles from sticking together.
- Add the roasted cauliflower to the pasta and mix it all together.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, basil, and a pinch of salt. Stir until mixed together.
- Reduce oven heat to 350°F.
- In a 9×13 ceramic or glass baking dish, assemble the baked ziti casserole: start with a third of the remaining jar of marinara sauce spread out onto the bottom of the pan.
- Then, add half the pasta/cauliflower mixture.
- Top with some generous dollops of marinara sauce (another third of the sauce), a handful of roughly torn basil leaves, and half of the cheese mixture in dollops.
- Repeat the layers once more in the order listed above.
- Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes until sauce is bubbling up in the edges and the cheese is melty.
- Let sit for a few minutes, then serve while hot.
Storing cauliflower baked ziti
As mentioned, this cauliflower pasta bake makes for excellent leftovers. Store baked ziti covered with tin foil (or transferred to an airtight container) in the fridge.
Reheat individual portions in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, or until warmed through.
Can you make baked ziti ahead of time? Yes! You can prepare this dish a day ahead of baking it. Assemble the baked ziti in your baking dish, cover with tin foil and refrigerate. Remove from the fridge about an hour before you plan to bake it to bring it to room temperature.
Can you freeze baked ziti? Yes! Freeze assembled (but unbaked) baked ziti in a freezer-safe baking dish sealed tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. Let baked ziti casserole thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before baking. Baked ziti will keep frozen for up to 3 months.
Keywords: cauliflower baked ziti, cauliflower pasta bake, vegetarian baked ziti, meatless baked ziti