Vegan baked ziti is an easy, delicious, comforting pasta recipe that everyones LOVES! It’s cheesy, saucy, and so flavorful. Ziti pasta is tossed with marinara, veggie sausage, cashew cream, vegan mozzarella, and then baked to perfection. It’s dairy-free, vegetarian, meatless, and made with pantry staples. This baked pasta is a true crowd-pleasing dinner, enjoyed by vegans and meat eaters alike!
I’m so excited to finally share my favorite comfort meal with you: Vegan Baked Ziti! Growing up in the Midwest, I enjoyed my fair share of pasta bakes and casseroles over the years. However, baked ziti always stood out from all the rest. It’s a foolproof recipe that’s easy to make, but mouthwatering and irresistible every time. I have successfully found a way to veganize my family’s classic recipe, and I know you’ll adore it as much as I do. It’s just like traditional baked ziti, but much better for you.
This baked pasta is healthy enough to be categorized as an everyday weeknight dinner, but tastes indulgent enough to be enjoyed on special occasions. It’s a great choice for feeding a crowd on birthdays, celebrations, and gatherings. The leftovers store well, which also makes it a good choice for meal prep and make ahead dinners.
So, what’s this baked ziti all about? First, a subtly-spicy marinara sauce with crumbled vegan sausage is prepared. Then, a smooth cashew cream sauce is created. After, ziti pasta is cooked al dente (until chewy) as it will cook further later on. Finally, the three components are layered and tossed inside a casserole dish before being baked in the oven. Don’t forget to sprinkle on some dairy-free shredded mozzarella or parmesan, too!
This meatless baked ziti is:
- Vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, and can easily be gluten-free and oil-free
- Creamy, cheesy, saucy, and packed with flavor
- Also known as vegan mostaccioli
- Stores well as leftovers, making it a great make-ahead or meal prep recipe
- Perfect for potlucks, birthdays, holidays, and celebrations
- A crowd pleasing recipe // Non-vegan approved and kid-approved!
What is baked ziti?
Baked ziti is a popular Italian-American casserole dish. It consists of ziti pasta, marinara sauce, meat, and cheese. Typically, the pasta is boiled on its own before being combined with the other ingredients. For the meat, crumbled sausage is most commonly used. For the cheese, popular choices include mozzarella, ricotta, and parmesan.
This vegan baked ziti is a meat-free and dairy-free casserole. Therefore, we’ll use veggie sausage and vegan cheese.
Ingredients needed for meatless baked ziti
- Ziti: Ziti pasta is a tubular pasta with straight-cut edges. Alternatively, you can use penne pasta. In a pinch, rigatoni works as well.
- Marinara sauce: Use your favorite marinara sauce since it’s a big component of this dish. My personal favorite is Rao’s marinara.
- Veggie sausage: Crumbled vegan sausage makes this a meatless baked ziti recipe. I recommend using Field Roast Italian Garlic and Fennel veggie sausage.
- Cashew cream: This dairy-free cream sauce is made with cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and various seasonings. It’s a delicious alternative to creamy sauces and tastes similar to alfredo.
- Seasonings: Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, garlic, and onion are added to the marinara for extra flavor.
- Vegan mozzarella: Vegan mozzarella is sprinkled on top of the casserole just before baking it in the oven. Alternatively, you can use vegan parmesan cheese.
How to make vegan baked ziti
For the full ingredients list and step-by-step instructions, scroll down to view the recipe card below.
Creating homemade vegan baked ziti may look like a complicated process. However, it’s actually quite easy and straight forward once you read through the instructions! Let’s break it down into 5 steps:
- Soak the cashews.
- Prepare the marinara with vegan sausage.
- Cook the pasta.
- Prepare the cashew cream.
- Assemble the vegan baked ziti and bake it in the oven.
First, soak raw cashews in hot water for 30 minutes. After, drain the water. Meanwhile, prepare the marinara and pasta.
Prepare marinara with vegan sausage
Warm olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add diced onion and cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 3 to 5 minutes. Next, add crumbled vegan sausage, minced garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and crushed red pepper. Stirring frequently, cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Then, add the marinara sauce. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. After, remove from heat and set aside.
Cook the ziti pasta
Cook the ziti according to package instructions, but stop 1-2 minutes early. The pasta should be cooked al dente or “to the tooth.” In other words, it should be chewy, a bit firm, and slightly underdone. The pasta will continue to cook later on in the oven. At this time, drain and rinse the cooked ziti. Then, set aside.
Prepare the cashew cream
In a blender, combine the soaked cashews, water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, mellow white miso paste, tapioca starch, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper. Blend until smooth.
Assemble the vegan baked ziti
Time for the fun part: assemble the ingredients! First, lightly oil a 9×13-inch casserole dish. This is an optional step, but it helps prevent the baked pasta from sticking to the sides of the dish.
Next, add several spoonfuls of the sausage marinara sauce. Spread across the dish to cover the base. Top with half of the ziti pasta and half of the marinara sauce.
Gently toss the pasta and marinara sauce to combine. Next, spoon the cashew cream on top of the pasta, leaving pockets of cream throughout the dish.
Then, repeat with the remaining ingredients. Again, add the other half of the pasta and marinara sauce to the dish. Gently toss to combine. Spoon the cashew cream on top, leaving pockets of cream throughout the dish.
Bake the pasta
Finally, sprinkle vegan mozzarella on top. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees F for 35 minutes. It should be uncovered and baked on the middle rack.
Once golden and crisp on top, remove vegan baked ziti from the oven. Garnish with fresh parsley. Slice into 8 servings. Enjoy!
FAQ and tips for perfecting this dinner recipe
What to serve with baked ziti
Like most Italian-American meals, this vegan baked ziti pairs perfectly with garlic bread. Try it with my easy Vegan Garlic Bread recipe! You can also enjoy it with roasted vegetables, like broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, artichokes, and green beans. Other tasty sides include fresh green salads, bruschetta, garlic knots, and breadsticks.
Should I cover baked ziti with foil?
No, you should not cover it with aluminum foil. In fact, I strongly recommend keeping it uncovered while baking. For an even crispier top layer, you can broil it for 1-2 minutes after baked.
What pasta is most like ziti?
As the name suggests, you should use ziti pasta for this pasta bake. However, if you cannot find ziti, penne or rigatoni work as well.
What is the difference between ziti and penne?
Both varieties have a similar size and appearance. Ziti is slightly shorter, thicker, and has straight-cut edges. Penne, on the other hand, is a bit longer, thinner, and has diagonally-cut edges. As you can see, there isn’t a very big difference between the two. That’s why penne works as a great replacement!
What’s the difference between baked ziti and lasagna?
For starters, how are they similar? The recipes are similar in the sense that they include pasta, tomato-based sauce, meat, and cheese.
In what manner are they different? There are two differences between the dishes: the shape of pasta used and the manner of assembly. Ziti uses tubular pasta while lasagna uses pasta sheets. While preparing ziti, the ingredients are gently mixed together before baking. While preparing lasagna, the ingredients are carefully layered.
How to store leftovers
Leftovers should be cooled to room temperature, then stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. To reheat, simply microwave or bake until hot.
More vegan pasta recipes
- Vegan Mac and Cheese
- Vegan Pumpkin Pasta
- Roasted Cauliflower Alfredo (Vegan)
- Vegan Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese
- Vegan Peanut Noodles
- Vegan Broccoli Pesto Pasta
More vegan Italian recipesPrint
Vegan baked ziti is an easy, delicious, comforting pasta recipe that everyone loves! Ziti pasta is tossed with a subtly-spicy marinara sauce, cashew cream, and veggie sausage. Then, it’s sprinkled with vegan mozzarella and baked in the oven. This pasta bake is dairy-free, vegetarian, meatless, and can be gluten-free and oil-free.
- 1 lb (16oz) dry ziti or penne
Marinara with Vegan Sausage
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ small onion, finely diced
- 1 and ½ cups crumbled vegan sausage
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 24oz jars marinara sauce
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon mellow white miso paste (optional, but recommended)
- 1 teaspoon tapioca starch or arrowroot starch (optional, but recommended)
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup shredded vegan mozzarella or parmesan
- Fresh parsley
- Soak cashews: Soak raw cashews in hot water for 30 minutes. After, drain the water. Meanwhile, prepare the pasta and marinara with vegan sausage.
- Marinara with vegan sausage: In a large pot, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. Add crumbled vegan sausage, minced garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and crushed red pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add marinara sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Pasta: Cook pasta according to package instructions, but stop 1-2 minutes early. The pasta should be cooked al dente or “to the tooth.” In other words, it should be chewy, a bit firm, and slightly underdone. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven later on. Remove the pasta from heat, drain, and rinse it. Set aside.
- Cashew cream: Combine soaked cashews and all other ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
- Preheat oven: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Assemble: Lightly oil a 9×13-inch casserole dish. Add several spoonfuls of marinara to the dish and spread across the base. Add half of the pasta, then half of the marinara sauce on top. Gently toss to combine. Add spoonfuls of cashew cream on top, creating pockets of cream throughout the dish. Use half of the cashew cream. Then, top with the remaining pasta and marinara sauce. Gently toss to combine. Again, add the remaining cashew cream on top, creating pockets of cream throughout the dish. Finally, sprinkle vegan mozzarella or parmesan on top.
- Bake: Bake for 35 minutes, uncovered, on the middle rack in the oven.
- Serve: Remove baked ziti from the oven. Garnish with fresh parsley. Slice into 8 servings. Enjoy!
- To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta. To make this recipe oil-free, omit the olive oil and replace it with ⅓ cup water.
- Vegan sausage: I recommend Field Roast Italian Garlic & Fennel Sausage.
- Vegan mozzarella: I recommend Violife, Follow Your Heart, or Daiya.
- Marinara: I recommend Rao’s marinara sauce.
- Tapioca starch/arrowroot starch and mellow white miso paste are optional ingredients. You can omit them with success. However, I highly recommend including them for the best results. Tapioca/arrowroot starch are also called tapioca/arrowroot flour.
- The nutrition information below is an estimate and will vary depending on the brand of marinara, vegan sausage, and vegan cheese used.
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 467
- Sugar: 4g
- Fat: 15g
- Saturated Fat: 2g
- Carbohydrates: 62g
- Fiber: 6g
- Protein: 19g
Keywords: vegan baked ziti, vegan mostaccioli, meatless baked ziti
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