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What are the Differences Between Baked Ziti and Lasagna?

Ever wondered the differences between baked ziti and lasagna? They’re more similar than you think! Here are the main differences.

Pasta is a huge staple in my house and we eat it at least once a week because it’s so easy to cook. Baked ziti and lasagna are two dishes that sound similar but have a couple of unique differences.

The key differences lie in the type of pasta and the layering technique. Baked ziti has the tube-shaped ziti noodles and is usually assembled in a single layer of each ingredient; while lasagna has the longer, flat lasagna noodles and has repeated layers for a thicker dish.

A photo collage of baked ziti and lasagna. Text says "Baked ziti vs. lasagna"

If you need more info, keep reading! I’ll go into depth on what’s in each dish, how to prep it for later, and will even give two amazing recipes to try!

The basics

Both baked ziti and lasagna share a lot of the same ingredients: Ground beef, pasta, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, and tomato sauce.

The main difference is the way that these dishes are layered, and creates a distinct texture and flavor in their own way.

A closeup of dried ziti pasta

The pasta

One of the biggest differences in these two dishes is the type of pasta that’s used.

Baked ziti uses, well… ziti. It’s a tube-shaped pasta that’s fun to poke a fork through and eat one at a time. You cook it until al dente and set it aside to assemble in the casserole.

Lasagna uses sheets of lasagna noodles, which are much longer and can take a little longer to cook. I tend to have problems keeping them from getting clumped while they cook, and I’m pretty good at breaking them at inopportune times.

In either case, you boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta until al dente.

A closeup of a slice of lasagna on a plate

The meat

You can use different types of meat, although most pasta dishes use some kind of ground meat. Ground beef is really popular, although you can use ground turkey or ground Italian sausage as well.

In any case, you cook the ground meat first before adding to the dish. Cook on medium heat until brown, then drain any excess grease.

A closeup of baked ziti on a plate

The cheese

One of my favorite parts! Mozzarella and ricotta cheese are popular in these dishes, as well as Parmesan cheese. The ricotta cheese is usually spread thin between layers, and the mozzarella and Parmesan are sprinkled throughout but especially on top.

Often times, you’ll mix the ricotta cheese with seasonings like Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. And some people like to add cottage cheese for some extra protein and a creamier consistency.

The sauce

The main sauce used in these dishes is a hearty tomato sauce. Usually mixed with all sorts of flavorful spices, and is layered with the pasta.

Sometimes you’ll see a creamy Alfredo sauce as a unique substitute, but the marinara sauce is typically the star here.

A slice of lasagna on a white plate

The layering of the dish

Layering these pasta dishes differ just slightly. Or not; it just depends on how you personally do it.

With a baked ziti, you typically do one single layer of each ingredient: The ziti pasta, the meat/ pasta sauce, and then the cheese.

Lasagna has multiple layers, creating a nice thick dish. You split up the ingredients and repeat the pattern of cooked pasta sheets, meat/ spaghetti sauce, and cheese mixture until you run out.

The baking

Both dishes bake in the oven, usually in a 9×13 baking dish, but the times vary depending on the size of each. Both dishes are fully cooked, and you’re just heating everything through and melting the cheese.

Baked ziti usually bakes for 20-30 minutes, while lasagna may take 45-50 minutes depending on how thick it is.

The main differences

The biggest differences lie in the pasta and the layering techniques. While baked ziti has the large tube-shaped noodles, lasagna has long flat noodles perfect for holding the meat and cheese.

How to make ahead of time

These dinners can take a long time to prep- and then you have to bake it! If you want to save energy, cook and assemble the dish the night before. Cover the casserole dish with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight. The flavors will blend together and it’ll taste even more delicious the next day!

Then you bake as normal, maybe adding a few extra minutes since everything is now cold. Making this ahead of time is great for get-togethers or an easy weeknight dinner!

Once you’ve enjoyed your dinner and have some leftovers, store individual portions in an airtight container in the fridge. Use it up within 3-5 days.

What to serve with these

When I think of a pasta dish, I think of two categories: Bread and salad.

  • Garlic bread, breadsticks, and Italian bread are great options! Make your own or buy from the grocery store.
  • A large Caesar salad would be perfect for these dinners!


I can’t leave you without at least giving you some recipes to try these out!

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