Baked Ziti with Spicy Ground Turkey

published Jan 4, 2021
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Baked Ziti with Spicy Ground Turkey

This quick and easy skillet-baked ziti is loaded with melty mozzarella and chunks of browned turkey.

Serves4 to 6

Prep10 minutes

Cook31 minutes to 39 minutes

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Credit: Joe Lingeman

A good baked ziti is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The combination of rich tomato sauce, melted cheese, and crispy noodles is the ultimate trio of textures and flavors. It’s a classic beloved by kids and adults alike, and one of my absolute favorite comfort foods.

This quick and easy weeknight version uses lean ground turkey to bulk up the sauce and turn it into a full meal, and a pinch of red pepper flakes adds a bit of heat. Think of it as a hybrid between a Bolognese and baked ziti, complete with a decadent cheesy topping that ties it all together.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3 Tips for Making the Best Baked Ziti

Before you head into the kitchen to make this baked ziti, a few tips.

1. Cook your pasta just shy of al dente. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure to cook it just shy of al dente. The ziti should be tender but still slightly firm in the center. For most ziti, this means six to seven minutes.

2. Feel free to reduce the amount of red pepper flakes. This recipe uses one teaspoon of red pepper flakes to add a pop of heat to the sauce. If you’re sensitive to spice, you can reduce the amount or omit it altogether.

3. If you want to get a head-start, assemble the pasta ahead of time and bake it later. You can completely assemble this dish, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and store it in the refrigerator up to one day in advance. When you’re ready to eat, all you have to do is bake it.

Baked Ziti with Spicy Ground Turkey

This quick and easy skillet-baked ziti is loaded with melty mozzarella and chunks of browned turkey.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 31 minutes to 39 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1 pound

    ground turkey

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for cooking the pasta

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 1 (28-ounce) can

    crushed tomatoes

  • 1 pound

    dried ziti pasta

  • 8 ounces

    fresh mozzarella cheese

  • 2 tablespoons

    fresh basil leaves


  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Meanwhile, heat the pasta water and start the sauce.

  2. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add 1 pound ground turkey and cook, breaking the meat apart with a wooden spoon into small pieces, until cooked through and browned, 4 to 6 minutes.

  3. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Stir in 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, reduce the heat to low, and simmer while you cook the pasta.

  4. Add 1 pound dried ziti to the boiling water and cook until al dente, 6 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, thinly slice 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, and chop until you have 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves.

  5. Drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir to combine. Evenly arrange the mozzarella slices on the pasta. Bake until the cheese is melted and browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Garnish with the basil.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.