This easy vegan baked ziti recipe is a classic Italian casserole dish with a delicious vegan twist. You’ll love the layers of ricotta-infused pasta, vegan provolone, veggie-sausage infused red sauce, all topped with vegan mozzarella. It’s a favorite go-to recipe for plant-based dinners.
“This baked ziti may be my favorite vegan Italian dish.”
That’s what Shawn said to me after he reheated a batch stored in the freezer. Yes, ya’ll, I am a big fan of freezer-friendly dishes. I oftentimes will make several different meals at once and freeze half of them. That way we don’t have too many, “what’s for dinner — I dunno” moments.
Why This Recipe is a Winner
- Dairy-free ricotta is added to the noodles to make make a flavor-infused foundation
- Vegan provolone cheese is added between the layers to add cheesiness to every bite
- Veggie crumbles add plant-based protein, texture, and flavor, making this an irresistible weeknight casserole!
What You Need
You can find the full printable recipe, including ingredient quantities, below. But first, here are some explanations of ingredients and steps to help you make this recipe perfect every time.
Here are the ingredients in this meatless ziti recipe:
- Ziti pasta — You can substitute penne pasta.
- Olive oil — I use extra virgin olive oil.
- Onion — My go-to favorite is a yellow onion.
- Garlic — This quintessential Italian ingredient is important. You can use raw garlic or the tender cloves from garlic confit.
- Extra-firm Tofu — We’ll use tofu to make the creamy provolone sauce.
- Vegan Provolone — I find this at Sprouts, Natural Grocers, or the health food section of my local grocery store.
- Mild Miso Paste — Having some mild miso paste is a vegan essential in my book because it adds a slightly salty umami flavor. You can substitute a teaspoon or two of apple cider vinegar and some salt if you can’t find it.
- Fresh Basil — I grow fresh basil in a pot and bring it inside during the winter months. You can also buy fresh basil in the produce section too. Dried basil can be substituted if necessary.
- Marinara — Use your favorite marinara; make sure it’s free of dairy and meat.
- Veggie Crumbles — There are many crumbles to choose from these days, including Gardein Beyond Beef and many beef substitute crumbles, like Impossible Burger and Pure Farmland.
- Vegan Mozzarella — We use either Daiya or Follow Your Heart vegan Mozzarella Shreds. Learn more about how to melt vegan cheese for casseroles.
What’s the Difference Between Penne and Ziti Pasta?
There’s a lot in common between the penne and the ziti noodles, but the major difference is penne noodles are cut at a diagonal. This creates a pointed tip on the ends, kind of like a pen or scroll, thus the name penne. Ziti noodles are cut straight. Does it matter? Personally, I’ve found it difficult to find ziti noodles, especially if you’re looking for gluten-free or whole-wheat noodles. You can easily substitute penne noodles in this meatless baked ziti.
How to Make Vegan Baked Ziti
- Cook the pasta according to package directions.
- Add the ricotta ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth.
- Stir together the marinara sauce and the veggie crumbles.
- Combine cooked pasta with vegan ricotta.
- Assemble ziti layers.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes until the cheese is melted.
- Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.
- Garnish with chopped basil leaves for garnish. Serve warm.
Here are more detailed step-by-step instructions.
Step One: Cook the Pasta
Follow the package instructions to cook the pasta in a pot of water. Then pour it into a strainer and immediately rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and to prevent the pasta from sticking together.
Step Two: Vegan Ricotta
While the pasta cooks, make the ricotta by combining the olive oil, onion, garlic, tofu, and miso paste in a food processor. Pulse until this mixture is smooth. Add half of the provolone slices and the fresh basil and pulse again.
It’s ok to have bits of the cheese and basil showing in the ricotta.
Step Three: Make “Meaty” Marinara
Combine the marinara sauce and veggie crumbles.
If you’re using a product like Gardein, you won’t need to precook the veggie crumbles. However, if you’re using a plant-based beef substitute that comes in a container looking like ground hamburger, you’ll need to precook it first. Follow the instructions on the package to cook it. Then add the cooked plant-based crumbles to the marinara.
You can also add some vegetarian pepperoni to the mix for even more flavor.
Step Four: Combine Pasta & Ricotta
By now your pasta should be done. Pour it into a colander and drain excess liquid. Run some cold water over the pasta to stop the cooking process. Then, return it to the pan it was cooked in and add the vegan ricotta mixture. Stir gently, until all the pasta is coated.
Step Five: Assemble the Ziti Casserole
Imagine this ziti almost like a vegan lasagna, baked in layers.
- Layer one: Pour half of the ricotta pasta into the bottom of the baking dish. Top that with half of the “meaty” marinara sauce. Top that with remaining slices of the vegan provolone cheese.
- Layer two: Add the remaining pasta, followed by the remaining marinara sauce. Top it all with the vegan mozzarella shreds.
Step Six: Cover and Bake
Cover the dish with foil, place it in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted.
Use tongs to remove the foil and return it to the oven to bake for another 5–10 minutes, until the edges of the pasta are golden brown.
Refrigerate leftovers in sealed containers for up to 5 days or transfer leftovers to freezer-friendly containers and freeze for up to 2 months.
When it’s done, remove it from the oven and allow it to sit for at least 10 minutes to cool. Add additional chopped basil leaves for garnish.
Serve this tasty dish with any of the following:
My family asks for this recipe by name. Thanks!
Can you make baked ziti without ricotta?
You can make baked ziti without dairy ricotta by using vegan creamy ricotta. You’ll combine tofu with onions, garlic, miso paste, and fresh basil to create a creamy mixture that is a perfect ricotta substitute.
Can you make baked ziti without meat?
You can make baked ziti by using veggie crumbles instead of meat. If you don’t have access to store-bought crumbles, you can make your homemade veggie sausage crumbles by adding the right spices to things like sweet potatoes or even oatmeal.
Can I freeze ziti bake?
So, after you’ve made a simple baked ziti, the big question is, can you freeze the leftovers? The answer is yes! Allow the baked ziti to come to room temperature and then transfer it to a freezer-safe container and place it in the freezer.
What's the difference between penne and ziti pasta?
There’s a lot in common between the penne and the ziti noodles, but the major difference is penne noodles are cut at a diagonal. This creates a pointed tip on the ends, kind of like a pen or scroll, thus the name penne. Ziti noodles are cut straight. Does it matter? Personally, I’ve found it difficult to find ziti noodles, especially if you’re looking for gluten-free or whole wheat noodles.
Vegan Baked Ziti
- 1 box ziti pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion , peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic , peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 cups extra firm tofu , cut into cubes
- 12 slices vegan provolone cheese*
- 1 tablespoon mild miso paste
- ¼ cup fresh basil chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 3 cups marinara sauce look at the ingredients and make sure it’s vegan
- 2 cups veggie crumbles
Baked Ziti Assembly
- 1 cup vegan mozzarella shreds
- Heat your oven to 375°F/190°C. Spray the inside (bottom and sides) of a 9×13 baking dish with vegetable cooking spray.
- Cook Pasta. Follow the directions on the box to cook the pasta.
For the Vegan Ricotta
- Make Vegan Ricotta. Add the olive oil, onion, garlic, tofu, and miso paste to a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Add half of the provolone slices and the fresh basil and pulse again. It's ok to leave bits of the cheese and basil showing in the ricotta.
For the Vegan Meaty Marinara
- Make Vegan "Meaty" Marinara: In a bowl combine the marina sauce and veggie crumbles. Stir to combine.
Baked Ziti Assembly
- Combine Cooked Pasta & Ricotta. By now your pasta should be done. Add to a colander and drain excess liquid. Run some cold water over the pasta to stop the cooking process. Return it to the pan it was cooked in and add the vegan ricotta mixture. Stir gently, until all the pasta is coated.
- Assemble Ziti. Layer one: Pour half of the pasta into the prepared baking dish. Top with half of the "meaty" marinara sauce. Top that with remaining slices of the vegan provolone cheese. Layer two: Add the remaining pasta, followed by the remaining marinara sauce. Top with vegan mozzarella.
- Cover & Bake. Cover the dish with foil and place the baking dish in your heated oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted.
- Remove the foil and return to the oven and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the edges of the pasta are golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes or so.
- Add additional chopped basil leaves for garnish. Serve warm.
- Refrigerate leftovers in sealed containers for up to 5 days or transfer leftovers to freezer-friendly containers and freeze for up to 2 months.
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The nutrition information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
This post for meatless baked ziti was originally published in 2018 and was updated to include new text in 2021.