April 26, 2021
For the longest time, I never wanted to even attempt a vegan baked ziti recipe because I thought nothing could live up to the original. But after some trial and error, I was excited to learn that I was so wrong! Baked ziti is now one of my favorite vegan pasta dishes. It's the perfect dish for special occasions, but it's just as delicious for weeknight meals.
This recipe uses my homemade vegan mozzarella, which is made from raw cashews and melts and stretches like the real thing. It also uses my tofu ricotta, and the sauce is loaded with green lentils instead of meat. For an extra kick of flavor, try topping the baked ziti with vegan parmesan cheese. You may want to serve it with a loaf of garlic bread, as well.
You will want to prepare your cashew cheese a few hours ahead of time (preferably a day in advance) to give it time to chill and firm up. The marinara sauce is a huge part of the flavor of this recipe, so be sure to use a good one, such as Rao's. You can also make a homemade marinara sauce if you prefer.
Can I substitute ziti noodles with another type of pasta? If you're unable to find ziti in your local grocery stores, penne pasta will also work. Penne noodles are a bit thinner than ziti noodles, and have slanted ends rather than straight cut ends.
Can I use vegan sausage or ground beef instead of lentils? Sure, you can use 2 1/2 cups of vegan ground beef or crumbled vegan sausage. Add it to the saucepan with the onions about 5-7 minutes before you add the marinara sauce (more or less time, depending on the package cooking instructions).
Can I freeze leftovers? This recipe will keep well in the refrigerator for up to a week. But I don't recommend freezing it, since it will affect the texture of the pasta.
Prep Time40 minutes
Cook Time70 minutes
Total Time110 minutes
Before you begin, be sure that your cashew mozzarella and tofu ricotta are ready to use. The mozzarella will need time to cool before it can be sliced or grated. I recommend preparing the mozzarella the day before making the baked ziti.
Cook your lentils according to package instructions; drain and set aside.
Add olive oil to a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add your yellow onion and cook for about 7-10 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and cook an additional one minute. Then, add your marinara sauce, maple syrup, and water and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. Stir in lentils and set aside.
Cook your ziti al dente (boil for about 8 minutes—or 2 minutes less than the package recommendation; your ziti will soften as it bakes). Drain and combine the cooked pasta noodles with the sauce and lentils in a large mixing bowl.
Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Assemble your baked ziti in a 3- to 4-quart casserole dish. Spread half of your ziti-sauce-lentil mixture across the bottom, then spread half of your tofu ricotta and half of your cashew mozzarella on top of the pasta. Repeat your layers with the remaining half of ziti, ricotta, and mozzarella. Bake for 35-40 minutes (no need to cover), then let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, if desired.
For the best flavor, be sure to use a high-quality sauce such as Rao's, or use your own homemade sauce, if desired.
If you want to grate your mozzarella, you will need time for it to harden, so plan ahead!
Store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Reheat in the oven at 350°F for 15 minutes for a single serving (reheating the full dish will require more time).
Note: This data should be used only as an estimate. Please see the nutrition section of my terms and conditions for more information on how this data is calculated.
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