A comfort food classic: Five cheese ziti al forno baked crispy in a casserole baking dish.
This is a family favorite and it's vegetarian.
📕 What's Five Cheese Ziti al Forno?
It's a comfort food pasta dish popularized by olive garden.
Ziti pasta is mixed into an alfredo sauce base and seasoned marinara sauce, together with 5 different cheese.
It's then baked with a perfect baked cheesy crust!
Al forno is Italian and means cooked in the oven.
This copycat recipe is inspired by the velvety olive garden restaurant classic.
This baked pasta is a meatless dish and you will need the following ingredients:
- ziti - a pasta variety resembling penne. If you can't get ziti, substitute with penne pasta.
- all-purpose flour
- tomato sauce - unseasoned/unflavored, simply plain tomato marinara style tomato sauce.
- salt and black pepper
- Italian seasoning - substitute with oregano (but will include less flavor complexity)
- garlic and onion powder
- 5 cheese - I use mozzarella, parmesan, cream cheese, fontina, and emmental or cheddar
You can also substitute cream cheese with ricotta and parmesan with pecorino.
🔪 How to make it?
Here is an overview on how to prepare this dish easily from scratch at home.
The detailed recipe with US and metric measurements is located at the bottom of this post in the recipe card.
Boil pasta as per package instructions.
Prepare cheesy tomato sauce in a skillet
Combine cooked pasta and sauce in a baking dish.
Top with cheese and bake crispy.
This pasta dish is on the heavier side and it's quiet filling and rich in calories.
So, I absolutely love it with a light salad and tangy dressing to balance off the flavors.
Store leftovers in an airtight containers in your fridge for up to 4-5 days.
Warm it up again in your microwave in a microwave compatible container or place the ziti 5 cheese into a baking dish and reheat in the oven.
You can also prep this dish from A to Z and freeze it for another day all together.
Then just place it frozen into the oven to defrost and heat up and cook until hot enough.
Yet, I don't recommend freezing this pasta dish because it will change the consistency of the pasta and cheesy sauce.
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Baked Five Cheese Ziti al Forno Recipe
For the Pasta
- 8 ounces Ziti *see Notes
For the Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Butter
- 2 Tablespoon All-purpose Flour
- 1 cup Milk
- 1½ cup Marinara Sauce plain flavored tomato sauce
- ½ cup Cream Cheese
- 1 cup Mozzarella, Parmesan, Fontina and Emmental mixed grated
- ¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper
- ½ Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning substitute with oregano
- ½ cup Mozzarella, Parmesan, Fontina and Emmental mixed or just one of those grated
- Parsley fresh chopped
- Cook ziti pasta as per package instructions.
Prepare the sauce
- Heat up a skillet with butter and melt it. Stir in flour and mix it quickly into the butter over a low heat setting. This is the base, a roux.
- Pour in some milk and keep on mixing, heat the skillet a little more (low to medium setting). Add all the milk until it's all used up so that the sauce thickens ad gets smoother in consistency.
- Stir in the marinara tomato sauce. Keep over a low to medium heat setting.
- Add the cream cheese and 4 other grated cheese. Mix it all in over the heat.
- Season with black pepper, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. You can substitute the Italian seasoning with oregano.
- Mix it all up, stirring over a lower heat setting. The sauce should be velvety smooth and well combined in consistency.
- Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit/ 190 Celsius.
- Place cooked strained ziti pasta into a rectangular baking dish.
- Pour cheese sauce over the pasta and mix it all in so that the pasta is well coated.
- Top with grated cheese.
- Bake for about 15 minutes at 375 Fahrenheit/ 190 Celsius or until the top is crispy baked. I like to use the broiler setting for that.
- Serve up hot with freshly chopped parsley.
- 8 ounces/230 grams makes about ½ a pack ziti noodles.
- plain marinara sauce is also called tomato passata
- combine the cheese quantities to your liking, I used about the same quantity of mozzarella, parmesan, fontina, and emmental. Sometimes I use cheddar instead of emmental.
- 13" Rectangular Baking Dish