When you want an easy, filling meal that is sure to please your family, serve a large pan of this Baked Ziti with Ground Turkey. It’s a perfect go-to for a busy week! Perfectly cooked pasta with rich tomato sauce, healthy lean protein, and plenty of cheese makes this a hearty, but kid-friendly dinner that adults are happy to enjoy too. Easy prep makes it quick enough for the busiest weeknights, or it can even be prepped ahead!
Baked Ziti with Ground Turkey – The EASY Way!
Pasta dishes like this ground turkey baked ziti are always a delicious, satisfying dinner in my house. It delivers all that rich, gooey, filling comfort of lasagna, but assembling this is way easier! It’s a stick to your ribs kind of meal that I always know will leave everyone satisfied, kids and adults alike.
I also love it because it’s a little lighter and healthier. Swapping out the traditional beef or sausage for leaner ground turkey is easy, but still provides that essential protein to my kids. The ground turkey is just as delicious too! The whole recipe comes together with just a handful of easy to find ingredients and a few minutes of very simple prep. Then it’s bubbling away in your oven and ready for the table just 40 minutes later.
Why I LOVE this recipe!
- Classic and Comforting – A simple and easy to assemble way of enjoying classic combination of marinara sauce, pasta, cheese, and meat.
- Lighter, Healthier Version – Ground turkey is a leaner protein that still delivers flavor and texture to the recipe.
- Easy Ingredients – Every ingredient is familiar and easy to find at any grocery store.
- Super Family Friendly – Everyone from the youngest kids to the adults will love a helping of cheesy, saucy ziti with seasoned ground turkey.
- Perfect for a Crowd – Whether its for a potluck, family dinner, or guests, this dish can serve 8 easily!
What to Serve with Ground Turkey Baked Ziti
Since this baked ziti recipe has the classic flavors of lasagna, it will pair well with many of your favorite Italian or traditional side dishes. There are both classic options and some healthy options to keep it light.
Side Dish Ideas
- Green Salad – Mixed leafy greens, tomatoes, croutons, cucumbers, and a quick, creamy Italian vinaigrette make the perfect healthy side.
- Vegetable Salad – My Broccoli Cauliflower Salad, Classic Cucumber Tomato salad, or Tomato Basil Mozzarella salad would all be light and delicious.
- No Yeast Dinner Rolls – Enjoy homemade bread without the rise times, perfect for a saucy baked pasta dinner.
- Garlic Bread – Try my classic garlic bread, cheesy garlic bread, or pesto cheese bread for a perfect, easy side.
- Baked Asparagus – Simple, quick, and perfect beside cheesy baked ziti.
- Roasted Green Beans – I’d recommend the garlic, balsamic, or bacon flavor options to pair with this recipe.
- Crispy Brussels Sprouts – Roasted sprouts are a delicious and healthy green vegetable side dish that’s easy to make.
You can choose one or add a few sides to make a wholesome, well rounded dinner.
This easy baked ziti with ground turkey recipe is as simple as promised! Just a quick 20 minutes of prep for a family friendly meal.
In this section I am going to go through a few tips and tricks I use when making this recipe to get the absolute best and most delicious results.
Make sure to scroll to the bottom for the FULL recipe card.
Ingredients + Substitutions
- Pasta – Ziti is our go to noodle, but if you have trouble finding it, choose another tube shaped or short pasta that has ridges. They’re key for catching all the sauce, ground turkey, and cheese so each bite is delicious.
- Olive Oil – I used olive oil, but canola, vegetable, or grapeseed oil can be used instead.
- Onion – Prefer either yellow or sweet onion, but you can use any onion you have on hand.
- Oregano – Use dried herbs from your pantry for the quickest and easiest seasoning, or chop up 1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh oregano.
- Garlic – Fresh garlic creates the best flavor in my opinion, but you can also swap in granulated garlic powder if you need to. About 1 teaspoon will do the trick.
- Ground Turkey – There are different styles of ground turkey available, some leaner than others. I prefer the leanest option, but any will work. Just make sure you drain off any excess grease before you add it to the recipe.
- Spaghetti Sauce – Use your favorite jarred brands for this recipe. Any marinara sauce is perfect, but I’d avoid any that contain meat, since we’re adding the ground turkey ourselves!
- Mozzarella – You can use any type of mozzarella that you like, even the fresh kind that comes in liquid. Make sure you drain off all liquid if you choose that, and break it into small enough pieces to spread across the baked ziti layers.
- Parmesan – The pre-shredded varieties don’t always melt as well, but it’ll work just fine in this recipe. If you can’t find Parmesan, then Romano makes a good alternative.
- Ricotta – You can use whole milk or low-fat ricotta.
- Sour Cream – I love the tang that sour cream adds when mixed with the ricotta. You can use regular or low-fat, or even swap in plain Greek yogurt. Or, if you prefer, skip it and use only ricotta.
- Parsley (optional) – A sprinkle of fresh herbs is always a nice finishing touch!
- Aim for Al Dente – It’s really important that you pull the pasta from its cooking water when it’s al dente, which is the point where it’s almost cooked, but still has a bit of chew to it. If you cook it too long, your ground turkey baked ziti can come out mushy.
Most packages tell you the proper cooking time to reach that point, but you can even pull it a minute before that and it will bake to perfection in the oven.
- Drain all the Liquid – Once you’ve cooked your ground turkey you may notice liquid in the sauté pan. It’s normal, but we don’t want to add it to our pasta bake. Drain it off, or scoop the turkey from the pan into another bowl so it doesn’t make the dish watery.
- Keep it Covered – A key part of having saucy, delicious baked ziti is to cover the pan while it bakes. That keeps all the moisture in so it won’t dry out. If you like, you can remove the foil in the last 10 minutes to let the cheese brown on top.
- Use a Baking Sheet to Avoid Leaks – All that bubbly sauce and cheese is delicious, but can make a mess in the oven as it cooks. To avoid any drips landing on the bottom of your oven, place it on a cookie sheet while it bakes.
Recipe Short Cuts
If you need to make this recipe, but are extra short on time, here are a few ideas that can help make this recipe even faster!
- Use Leftover Pasta– Tossing this together can be easy on a busy weeknight if you plan ahead and cook extra pasta earlier in the week. Using cold pasta might increase the baking time slightly, but not by much.
- Go for Pre-shredded Cheese– Assembly can be a breeze if you use pre-shredded mozzarella and Parmesan instead of shredding it all yourself.
- Prep Ahead– It’s easy to make the pasta and ground turkey ahead and store it in the fridge. You can even fully assemble it in the casserole dish. Then just pop it in a preheated oven for dinner! You’ll need to add a few more minutes to the cook time.
If you love this recipe as much as we do and want some quick ways to change it up for variety, these little tips will do the trick!
- Baked Ziti with Turkey Meatballs– Make the pasta according to package directions and cook a batch of frozen or homemade Italian turkey meatballs. Instead of layering them, mix the pasta, meatballs, and sauce in a bowl and then spread the mixture into your casserole dish. Dollop the ricotta and sour cream mixture throughout, then top with the mozzarella and parmesan before covering and baking as directed.
- Baked Ziti with Spicy Ground Turkey– Easily spice up the recipe by adding red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to the ground turkey seasonings. Start with 1/4 teaspoon and taste it, increasing as needed to suit your family’s tastes. Continue with the recipe as directed.
- Baked Ziti with Spinach and Ground Turkey– Add 1-2 cups of thawed frozen spinach to the ground turkey. Make sure all the extra liquid is drained off, then toss the turkey spinach mixture with the sauce. Follow the rest of the recipe as it’s written.
Freezer Meal Instructions
Making this baked ziti with ground turkey recipe into a freezer meal is simple! Follow the steps below and you can store this recipe in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- Cook the recipe up to the point of layering in a casserole dish. Choose an aluminum or other freezer safe pan.
- Cover and place in the freezer.
- When ready to bake, thaw in the fridge for 24-48 hours.
- Bake as directed.
Ground Turkey Baked Ziti Leftovers
If you have leftovers after making baked ziti with turkey, then it is your lucky day! They save and reheat well, and can make the start of another delicious dish.
To save leftovers, separate into meal sized portions and then place in an airtight container and store:
- in the refrigerator for 3-4 days
- in the freezer up to a month
More Pasta Recipes
If you enjoyed this recipe, I really hope you will take a moment to grab a few more easy recipes for another busy night!
You can check out all of my easy dinner recipes here, or see a few of our readers favorite recipes below.
- 16 ounces ziti pasta, uncooked
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 yellow or sweet onion, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 2 jars spaghetti sauce, (24 oz each)
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese
- 4 ounces parmesan cheese
- 8 ounces ricotta
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- fresh chopped parsley
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
- Boil the pasta to al dente per the package directions. While the pasta is cooking heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot add the onion, oregano, garlic, and ground turkey. Cook stirring to break up the meat frequently until the ground turkey is cooked through. Drain any excess liquid.
- Mix one jar of spaghetti sauce with the meat mixture. Drain the pasta, return to the pot, and mix the other jar of sauce. Mix ricotta and sour cream together.
- In a 13"x9", or other large baking dish, spread a thin layer of the meat mixture. Spoon half of the pasta evenly into the pan. Spread half of the meat mixture over it, then spread half of the ricotta mixture on the meat mixture. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses over the ricotta. Repeat by layering the rest of the pasta, then meat sauce, then cheeses over the top.
- Cover with foil and bake for 35-45 minutes or until the edges are bubbling. Optional: remove foil for last 5-10 minutes of cooking time to brown cheese on top.
- Once done, garnish with fresh parsley if desired and serve warm. Enjoy!