Three Cheese Baked Ziti

Classic Italian-American baked ziti with roasted eggplant, spicy red pepper sauce and oodles of melted, gooey cheese including ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan.

The eggplant shrinks after roasting so it kind of disappears under all the layers of pasta, cheese and sauce but adds a little something extra special to its overall flavor.

You can get away with feeding this to eggplant/vegetable-haters without saying a word about it. When and if  they do notice it will be at the point of no return.

Too late they’ll be hooked by its charms and won’t even give a care.

Of course you can always skip the eggplant. Up the pasta to 1 pound in that case.

Red pepper flakes give a pop of heat to the sauce that wakes everything up bringing the flavors to life. Again, you can leave them out or cut the amount down if spiciness isn’t your thing.

Feed a broken heart, a bad day, or simply a hungry belly. Being of the utmost comfort it will sooth whatever ails you.

Body, mind and soul included.

Three Cheese Baked Ziti (Eggplant Optional)

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Three Cheese Baked Ziti (Eggplant Optional)

Classic Italian-American baked ziti with roasted eggplant, spicy red pepper sauce and oodles of melted, gooey cheese including ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan.


2 firm eggplants, about 1 + 1/2 pounds each
coarse salt
6 - 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves minced garlic
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes, (I like San Marzano)
12 ounces ziti (I like Barilla whole-grain)
1 heaping teaspoon Italian seasoning, crushed between fingertips
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
fresh black pepper
3 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups fresh shredded mozzarella cheese
butter, for greasing pan


  1. Trim off stems, peel the eggplant and cut into 1-inch cubes. Toss them with 1 tablespoon coarse salt in a large colander and let them drain over a bowl for 1 hour. After an hour use paper towels to dry them - blot excess water and salt off them.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease a large baking sheet and toss the eggplant with 3-4 tablespoons of oil. Spread out evenly and bake until browned, carefully tossing halfway through about 25-35 minutes.
  3. In a large sauce pan over medium-low heat 2 tablespoons oil; saute onion until tender and translucent add garlic and saute until fragrant. Add tomatoes, Italian seasoning, parsley and red pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook 30 minutes, stirring often and reseasoning if needed.
  4. In a medium bowl stir the ricotta cheese with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella and the parmesan cheese.
  5. Cook the ziti to a minute under al dente according to package directions in plenty of salted water. Drain and add to a large mixing bowl. Toss with sauce, eggplant and 1 cup of the ricotta cheese.
  6. Generously grease a 9 x 13 casserole pan. Place 1/2 of the pasta evenly over the bottom of the pan. Dollop 1/2 of the remaining ricotta cheese by the spoonfuls over top then sprinkle with half the mozzarella. Repeat: spread the rest of the pasta evenly over top, dollop with the remaining ricotta and sprinkle with mozzarella.
  7. Bake 30-35 minutes until hot in the middle and lightly golden on top. Let set 5 minutes before serving.

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  1. says

    Hi Reeni! I’ve never ever ever had eggplant in baked ziti before. Eggplant parm is my favorite italian dish (by far!), but I’ve never put eggplant into a dish WITH pasta before. I don’t bake pasta too too much but this is one dish I can see myself making. That spicy red pepper sauce also puts me over the edge. I’m convinced – I love the whole idea of this ziti!

  2. says

    I can never say to no to a cheesy baked pasta dish! I am so tricking my eggplant-hating brother into eating it with this recipe…muahahahaha.

  3. Yasmin says

    Distracting me from my studies with your beautiful photos ! mmm, pasta is all I need to be happy in life :) can’t wait to try this out !

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