White Baked Ziti With All the Herbs

June  6, 2021
7 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Sophie Strangio. Food Stylist: Drew Aichele.
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • makes one 13x9-inch casserole
Author Notes

A creamy, herby baked ziti that forgoes the slow-simmered red sauce for a quicker, cheesier white one. Here’s the gist: Whip a couple pounds (!) of ricotta in a food processor with a few cloves of garlic until smooth. Add some heavy cream to create a velvety sauce, similar to one you might make for a mac ’n’ cheese, but without all the whisking of a fussy roux. Then mix with shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan, you know, as if things weren’t cheesy enough.

Freshly chopped herbs lend brightness to the otherwise rich dish. I like a combination of scallions, basil, dill, oregano, and chives. Use whatever fresh stuff you can find at your store or farmers market, or forage from your own herb garden. And if you don’t have an herb garden of your own, this pasta may be your reason to start one. It’s just that good.

When it comes to the actual pasta, I used ziti because it’s technically not a baked ziti without it. But you could use any short-cut pasta shape you like. Penne and cavatappi are two of my favorites.

Like most baked pastas, this casserole can be assembled ahead of time and baked when convenient. If you make it the night before, pop it in the fridge, then allow it to come to room temperature before baking.

For leftovers, if you’ve got them, reheat in the oven. I scoop a few servings into an 8x8-inch dish, add a splash of cream so that the pasta doesn’t dry out, cover with foil, and bake at 350°F until warm, about 15 minutes. If you’re looking for a quicker fix, eating leftovers cold, straight from the dish is never a bad move either. —Grant Melton

What You'll Need
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water
  • 1 pound ziti (or whatever short pasta you like best)
  • 2 pounds ricotta
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups shredded low-moisture mozzarella, plus more for topping
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 8 basil leaves, chopped or torn
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 13x9-inch casserole dish.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook to al dente, according to package directions. Just before draining, dip a liquid measuring cup in the starchy pasta water and reserve 1/2 cup. Drain the pasta in a colander and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, add the ricotta, garlic, 2 teaspoons of salt, and pepper to a food processor. Purée for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides, add the heavy cream, and purée for 30 seconds more. Once the cream is incorporated, turn off the processor.
  4. Add the whipped ricotta mixture to a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the 1/2 cup of cooled pasta water (slightly warm is fine, but it shouldn’t be hot). Once smooth, fold in both cheeses, the scallions, and herbs using a rubber spatula. Add the pasta and toss to coat. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Top with a handful of mozzarella and the red pepper flakes.
  5. Bake for about 25 minutes, until bubbly and brown.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • babswool
  • Jackie Nobles
    Jackie Nobles
  • LuvCake
  • Kristin Watson Heintz
    Kristin Watson Heintz
  • Shari Barker
    Shari Barker

8 Reviews

teamjelly January 10, 2022
This is excellent! Followed the recipe exactly and it turned out beautiful. I did broil it at the very end just to give the top a little crunch for texture. It wasn't super salty, just right, and the herbs weren't overpowering at all. I may add green peas next time to mix it up? This is very rich so a little green bite may help.
babswool May 6, 2021
I took another posters suggestion and did not add any salt to the recipe and it was very bland. I added garlic and ramps (from North Carolina) for my herb mixture but the result was not special. It was very easy to make so if I made it again I would pump up the seasoning.
Jackie N. May 3, 2021
I’m planning to make this, but plan to cut the carbs by using roasted cauliflower instead of pasta, maybe throw in some artichoke hearts. The sauce sounds fantastic, quick and easy.
Darian April 18, 2021
This was really good. I cut back on the salt per another reviewer and amped up the crushed red pepper because we really like it. The dill flavor was very pronounced - I don't use a lot of dill in my cooking so it was particularly noticeable for us, but not unpleasant. The prominent dill flavor made me think a bit of feta would have added a nice tangy contrast to the other rich cheeses. Generously served three with plenty of leftovers!
LuvCake April 13, 2021
This is delicious. The addition of fresh greens makes it fresh and light. Followed the recipe to the letter and it was a fantastic meal. Husband had three servings.
Kristin W. April 13, 2021
I wanted this to be great. A warning: every salt has different levels of saltiness (as do the cheeses you use) so I recommend not adding the salt to the sauce as you whip it up but add it to taste after you add the pasta. I have a VERY high salt tolerance and I ended up throwing the whole pan out. My mother-in-law and husband couldn't eat it at all. I usually always add the salt in a recipe like this in small amounts (you can always add more, you can't take it out!). 2 tsps is a lot of salt in this sauce. Or at least was for the sea salt I use. Just a warning. Super disappointed. Couldn't figure out any way to save it.
Hilary December 14, 2021
It might have been too salty if you were using fine salt. Diamond Kosher is my go-to because it's so widely used in these recipes. If you sub fine salt, the basic rule of thumb would be to halve the amount in the recipe by volume, or halve the weight if you have the right scale.
Shari B. April 11, 2021
I just made this. It's fabulous. To be honest, Food52 is a great site, but it intimidates me a little. I'm just an average cook. OMG. So delicious. So easy. If I can do it, anyone can do it. It will be in my permanent rotation. I used the herbs exactly as stated. I don't have enough confidence to substitute.