What is Ziti?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Ziti is a form of pasta that has numerous definitions. How you define it will give you a sense of exactly what you should look for when you shop for it. The pasta may be compared directly to penne pasta, which is tubular in shape, may have ridges on the exterior, and is about one to two inches long. Rigatoni is another similar pasta but is typically wider than ziti or penne. The opening of penne is slightly wider than the opening of a standard drinking straw..

Ziti casserole heats up well in the microwave.
Ziti casserole heats up well in the microwave.

You can purchase several forms of this pasta. You may see penne sold as ziti or alternately you may find about a foot long (30.48 cm) straws of the pasta. These are excellent since the tube shape will help hold sauces in. However, most refer to this pasta as something that you bake in an Italian style casserole. This usually uses cut versions of zit that are about 2 inches (5.08 cm) in length. For most baked ziti recipes, you can easily substitute rigatoni or penne.

Many pastas, including ziti, taste good when topped with a bit of Parmesan cheese.
Many pastas, including ziti, taste good when topped with a bit of Parmesan cheese.

Baked ziti is definitely something to try. It is a combination of marinara sauce, sausage or ground meat, plenty of mozzarella cheese, and sometimes veggies like peppers or mushrooms. Cooked pasta is layered into a casserole dish with sauce, cheese and other ingredients and is baked for about an hour. The top of the pasta gets crusty and may be sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. This is a fairly easy casserole to prepare and it’s a classic dish at many Italian American parties and weddings.

Mozzarella with tomatoes and basil leaves.
Mozzarella with tomatoes and basil leaves.

You don’t have to be Italian American to enjoy this dish. There are numerous recipes online for it, and even some forms of pasta available that you don’t have to pre-cook. The casserole can be adapted for small or large events, and if you want to make it more healthful you can use ground turkey or turkey sausage, low fat cheese and whole wheat or whole grain pasta.

Some delis sell slices of this casserole, which can be reheated upon request. It does keep well in the fridge for several days and will heat up well in the microwave. You can also make this dish the night before an event of dinner, and simply pop in the oven an hour or two before you plan to serve it. Of course, with any style of ziti, you can simply cook the pasta and top it with a variety of sauces.

Marinara sauce is used in baked ziti.
Marinara sauce is used in baked ziti.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


My niece is an art teacher and has a lot of creative ideas. She uses all different kinds of pasta noodles to create noodle art. She uses a lot of ziti noodles when she is creating something. Her latest creation was a wedding cake made out of pasta noodles and it won a blue ribbon at our state fair. She has also started teaching this to her students in art class, and they just love it.


With many pasta recipes, it is easy to substitute whatever pasta you may have on hand. If I don't have ziti noodles I will often use penne pasta. I don't think this really affects the taste and it comes down to personal preference.

When I make a ziti casserole I will often make two of them. One to eat that evening and I put another one in the freezer. This makes a great dish to heat up on evenings when I don't have time to cook.

If I am traveling out of town it is also easy for my husband to take this out of the freezer and heat it up on the oven. The casserole will freeze well and this is one dish that everyone in my family loves.


You can find a lot of ziti recipes online but they are all pretty much the same. Depending on what kind of sauce you use, and if you use meat or not, there isn't too much variation.

Sometimes when I make ziti I won't use any meat at all, and other times I may combine some sausage and beef. The one thing you don't want to forget when making ziti is the cheese. We like a lot of cheese, so this is something I don't skimp on.

One of the biggest reasons I like to make my own ziti is because I can make it exactly how I like it. If I order this from a restaurant and have any leftovers, I will always add more cheese when I heat it up at home.


My grandmother used to make an amazing sausage ziti. It was one of the staples of our big family dinners.

She was actually from Italy and she did everything from scratch. She made her own marinara and even her own sausage. I wish that everyone could have tried it because it was better than anything I have ever had in an Italian restaurant.

When she passed on she took a lot of that care and effort with her. It is really unfortunate, but we still meet for Sunday dinner and I think that is the most important part.


Has anyone ever tried making a ziti recipe that uses white sauce?

Baked ziti is probably my all time favorite comfort food. Whenever I feel kind of down I will whip some up.

I am a vegetarian, so I don't use meat, but it still comes out delicious and decadent. Plus, you can add almost any vegetables that you have in the fridge.


Baked ziti is absolutely delicious and an easy ziti recipe, but ziti is also a really good pasta to use in pasta salad.

The tubes hold a bit of salad dressing quite well and they are nice and chunky to go with the other ingredients.

You can just make the salad ahead of time and keep it in the fridge as well. It's one of our summer favorites, and I make it with mayo, onions, cherry tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese as well as anything else in the fridge that looks likely.

Even kids tend to like it and we hardly ever end up with leftovers.


Dry ziti is quite good for your kids if they are making pasta decorations. Just because you can get it in various lengths that can then be snapped down to size.

Of course, it can be quite difficult to get the longer ziti now, but you still can in specialty stores and such.

I find that if you are careful, you can split the tubes in half and use them as borders in pasta mosaics.

It's probably better if you do this yourself, rather than getting your kids to do it, as you need to use a knife, and aside from safety reasons, it might take a few tries to get right!

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