Easy Vegan Baked Ziti with Homemade Tofu Ricotta (No Cashews)8 min read
Easy vegan baked ziti that’s perfect for a healthy and delicious meal everyone will love!
This easy baked ziti recipe is meat-free and features homemade tofu ricotta, making it completely plant-based and dairy-free! It’s also super easy to make in just a few simple steps.
Baked ziti is a bit like a lasagna but less labour intensive. It’s all the goodness of layered baked pasta with minimal effort!
Whether you’re entertaining or making dinner for the family, this dish is always a great choice. It feels a little fancy but it’s really so simple and the result is rich, “cheesy”, hearty and comforting.
You’ll love this satisfying and delicious baked vegan pasta for a quick meal you can pop in the oven any night of the week. Serve it with your favourite garlic bread for the best comfort food meal!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Perfect for company, holidays and easy weeknight meals. Baked ziti is great if you’ve got a variety of eaters at the table, vegan and otherwise.
- Family-Friendly: This recipe is a hit with the kids!
- Budget-Friendly: This recipe is made with readily available, inexpensive ingredients.
- Easy to make in a few simple steps. Ready to serve in about 40 minutes.
- Vegetarian, vegan (dairy-free, no egg, nut-free (no cashews) and can easily be made gluten-free.
- Customize by adding vegan ground meat, sausage, extra veggies or topping with dairy-free cheese.
- High in protein and fiber.
- Can be prepared in advance. Great for meal prep!
What is baked ziti?
Ziti is a short tube-shaped pasta noodle. It’s similar to penne but is cut straight with a smooth surface instead of ridges.
Baked ziti is an Italian-American pasta casserole dish that features ziti, marinara sauce, meat and cheese. The cheese may be mozzarella, ricotta or parmesan and ground sausage is often used for the meat.
This baked ziti recipe is vegan so it does not contain any cheese or meat but it’s still hearty, comforting and delicious making it a great choice for a satisfying meatless meal.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Complete list of ingredients with amounts and full instructions is located in the printable recipe card below. This section covers ingredient and substitution considerations.
- Olive Oil: Olive oil is used to saute the vegetables but you can substitute water or broth to make this recipe oil-free.
- Onion: White or yellow onion works.
- Bell Pepper: Red bell pepper is best but you can substitute green, orange or yellow pepper if that’s what you have.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic is best (not garlic powder).
- Cherry Tomato: Cherry tomato or grape tomato works. If you’re not a fan of tomatoes or don’t have any on hand, you can omit them.
- Oregano: You can use fresh or dried oregano. Italian seasoning would also work well here.
- Chili Flakes: Adds little kick to the recipe. You can omit it if you’re quite sensitive to spice.
- Pasta: Use ziti or substitute another short pasta shape like penne or rigatoni. For gluten-free baked ziti, use a short gluten-free pasta of choice.
- Crushed Tomato: You’ll need canned crushed tomato. Diced tomato would also work but I like crushed tomato for a smoother sauce. You could also use marinara sauce or any other pasta sauce, pizza sauce or plain tomato sauce you enjoy.
- Basil: Fresh basil is nice for serving. Parsley would also work.
For the Tofu Ricotta: To make the tofu ricotta, you’ll need tofu, nutritional yeast, lemon, salt, apple cider vinegar and garlic. If you’re not making this, use a store bought ricotta or a cashew-based cheese recipe you enjoy. You could even just make this basic cashew cream.
How to Make Vegan Baked Ziti
Saute the Vegetables
Place a large pan on the stovetop and heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes until translucent.
Add the garlic and red bell pepper the pan and continue cooking for a few more minutes.
Cook the Tomato Sauce
Add the chopped tomatoes, oregano, chili flakes and crushed tomato. If you want to add other veggies like zucchini or fresh spinach, add those now as well.
Bring the sauce to a light simmer and cook for 10 minutes, uncovered. If you’re adding ground meat or sausage to the ziti, you can mix that in now or layer in the baking dish before adding the ricotta.
Quick Tip: Start bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil to cook your pasta.
Make the Tofu Ricotta
To make the tofu ricotta, add all of the ingredients to a high-speed blender or food processor and process until smooth. It should be thick and creamy but easy to spread. To adjust the consistency, you can blend in 1-2 tbsp water or olive oil, if needed.
Quick Note: I kept the tofu ricotta plain but you can add up to 1 cup fresh herbs like basil or 1-2 tsp dried herbs like oregano, basil or Italian seasoning for herb ricotta. If you’re adding fresh herbs, chop it up and add it at the end and pulse a few times to mix it in.
Cook the Ziti & Mix Sauce
Cook the pasta according to package instructions, 1-2 minutes under al dente since it will finish cooking in the oven.
Quick Note: Some baked ziti recipes call for a layering of ingredients but I didn’t find it necessary since it all gets mixed up anyways.
If you’d like to try it layered, keep the sauce and cooked pasta separate so you can layer it in the baking dish.
Layer and Bake
I simply added the tomato sauce and pasta mixture to an approximately 12×8 inch casserole dish and topped it with the ricotta. Easy peasy!
If you’d like to layer it, start with 1/2 cup of sauce, fill with pasta and a few dollops of ricotta, top with the remaining sauce, and then spread the rest of the ricotta over top.
Bake the ziti for 20 minutes at 350 F. Sprinkle with the fresh basil and serve!
Notes & Tips
- Cooking the Pasta: Be sure to slightly undercook the pasta as it will finish cooking in the oven. It should be just a little under al dente.
- Add “meat” to the recipe. To add a plant-based meat alternative such as seitan sausage, Beyond meat crumbles, Field Roast sausage or Gardein beefless ground, stir them into the sauce when it’s done cooking or sprinkle over the pasta and sauce in the baking dish before adding the ricotta.
- Top with cheese. For a cheesy finish, spinkle a little grated vegan cheese over top before baking. You can also serve with this almond vegan parmesan.
- Cashew Cream: For an alternative to ricotta, try making this simple cashew cream and pouring it over the pasta and sauce in the baking dish. Top with your choice of grated cheese such as vegan mozzarella and bake.
- Vegan Baked Ziti with Spinach: Mix 3-4 handfuls of fresh baby spinach into the tomato sauce once it’s done cooking.
Defintely! To make baked ziti gluten-free, simply use your choice of gluten-free pasta such as quinoa or brown rice pasta. You may not be able to find gluten-free ziti noodles but you can use penne or another similar pasta shape.
If you can’t find ziti noodles, substitute penne, rigatoni or macaroni.
Yes. You can use any store-bought ricotta or mozzarella cheese or a mixture of cheeses such as parmesan, ricotta and mozzarella. If you have a cashew ricotta or other cashew-based cheese recipe you like, that works too.
No. Covering the baked ziti with foil for baking is not necessary.
- Toppings: Add a spinkle of almond parmesan and fresh basil or parsley.
- Salad: Serve with a light green salad or caesar salad.
- Bread: Can’t go wrong serving your ziti with garlic bread fresh from the oven!
- Serve with bruschetta or butternut squash bruschetta as a side or beforehand as an appetizer.
- Vegetables: Serve with a side of roasted asparagus, steamed broccoli, eggplant, green beans, etc.
How to Store Baked Ziti
- Let cool before storing.
- Store tightly covered right in the baking dish or transfer to an airtight container.
- Fridge: Store up to 5 days in a sealed container.
- Freezer: Store in one large portion or transfer to individual portions and store up to 3 months. Try to remove as much air as possible from the storing container or make sure it’s tightly wrapped.
- Reheating: Microwave individual servings until heated through. If you’re reheating the whole baked ziti, you can cover with foil and reheat in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 350 F until heated through.
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For the Baked Ziti
For the Tofu Ricotta
- Saute Vegetables: Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until translucent, roughly 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and red peppers to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring often. Start brining a large pot of salted water to boil to cook the pasta.
- Cook Sauce: Add the tomatoes, oregano, chilli flakes and crushed tomato to the pan. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Cook Pasta: When the water is fully boiling, cook the pasta according to package instructions. Cook to about 1 minute under al dente since it will finish cooking in the oven. Start preheating the oven when the pasta is nearly ready.
- Make Tofu Ricotta: Add all of the tofu ricotta ingredients to a food processor or high-speed blender and combine until smooth. Alternatively, use a prepared ricotta of choice, either homemade or store-bought.
- Mix Pasta & Sauce: Once pasta is cooked, strain off all water and place back in the pot, add your sauce and mix well. Alternatively, you can mix them right in the baking dish.
- Bake Ziti: Transfer pasta into an approximately 12×8-inch baking dish. Evenly spread pasta in the baking dish then cover with tofu ricotta. Bake 20 minutes at 350 F for 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
- Serve: Let stand for 10 minutes, sprinkle with the chopped basil and fresh-cracked black pepper and enjoy.
Cheese Options: As an alternative to tofu ricotta, you can pour 1 cup cashew cream over the pasta and sauce then top with shredded vegan mozzarella, use a combination of cheeses on top, such as mozzarella and parmesan or use a store-bought ricotta or other dairy-free cheese you enjoy. This easy almond or cashew parmesan is good for serving.
Storing: Let cool. Tightly wrap or transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days. To freeze, tightly wrap or store as individual servings in freezer-safe containers or freezer bags. Thaw then reheat in the microwave or oven at 350 F until heated through.
- Serving Size: 1/6th of recipe
- Calories: 392
- Sugar: 6 g
- Sodium: 478 mg
- Fat: 10 g
- Carbohydrates: 72 g
- Fiber: 6 g
- Protein: 20 g
Keywords: vegan baked ziti, vegan baked ziti no cashews