13 Best Herbs and Spices for Baked Ziti

When it comes to indulgent and flavorful Italian comfort food, few dishes satisfy quite like a piping hot serving of baked ziti.

This hearty casserole of pasta, rich tomato sauce, and melted cheese is a crowd-pleaser that never fails to please even the pickiest of palates.

However, if you want to take your baked ziti to the next level, adding a variety of herbs and spices can truly elevate its taste and make it an unforgettable culinary experience.

In this article, we will explore the 13 best herbs and spices that expertly complement and enhance the flavors of baked ziti, creating a dish that is bursting with deliciousness.

Baked Ziti

13 Best Herbs and Spices for Baked Ziti

Get ready to revamp your baked ziti recipe and make it an even more delectable treat for your family and friends.


Dried Basil

Basil is undoubtedly one of the most popular herbs used in Italian cuisine and is a fantastic addition to baked ziti. Its sweet and slightly peppery flavor complements the tomato sauce and cheese beautifully, adding a fresh and aromatic touch.

Whether you opt for fresh basil leaves or dried basil, both will bring a burst of herbaceousness to your dish.

Simply tear up the fresh leaves or crumble the dried ones and sprinkle them over the top of your ziti before baking. The heat of the oven will help release the oils in the basil, intensifying its flavor and infusing your dish with its delightful essence.



Another staple in Italian cooking, oregano is a must-have herb for any baked ziti recipe.

Its robust and slightly bitter flavor adds depth to the tomato sauce, providing a hearty and earthy taste that perfectly complements the pasta and cheese.

You can use either dried or fresh oregano, but if using dried, be sure to crush the leaves between your fingers to release their aromatic oils before sprinkling them over the ziti. Oregano is a classic herb for baked ziti, and its addition will certainly elevate the overall flavor profile of your dish.



Known for its warm and earthy flavor, thyme is an herb that pairs exceptionally well with the rich and savory components of baked ziti. Its delicate and slightly minty taste adds a subtle but distinct layer of complexity to the dish.

Whether you choose to use fresh thyme leaves or dry ones, adding a pinch of this herb to your ziti will infuse it with a delightful herbaceous fragrance and an extra depth of flavor.

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Consider plucking the leaves off the stems and scattering them evenly over your ziti for an even distribution of the distinct thyme taste.



Rosemary is an herb that brings a unique and enchanting aroma to any dish it graces. Its pine-like fragrance and distinct, slightly bitter flavor make it an excellent choice for adding an intriguing twist to your classic baked ziti.

Whether you opt for fresh rosemary sprigs or use dried rosemary, a little goes a long way.

Finely mince the fresh leaves or crush the dried ones to release their essential oils and sprinkle them sparingly over the ziti.

The result will be a dish that is not only visually appealing but also possesses an enticing fragrance and a tantalizing flavor.



Parsley is a versatile herb that can add a burst of freshness and color to your baked ziti. With its mild, slightly peppery taste, parsley acts as a refreshing counterbalance to the richness of the tomato sauce and cheese.

Fresh parsley is often preferred as it brings a vibrant green hue to the dish, but dried parsley can also work if that’s what you have on hand.

Chop the fresh leaves finely and sprinkle them over your ziti just before serving to add a pop of freshness and a touch of vitality.

Garlic powder

Garlic Powder

Garlic is a beloved ingredient in many Italian dishes, and using garlic powder in your baked ziti is a convenient way to infuse it with the distinctive flavor of garlic.

Garlic powder provides a concentrated and consistent garlic taste that evenly coats the ziti.

Sprinkle a generous amount of garlic powder over your dish during the assembly process or mix it into the tomato sauce to ensure that every bite is bursting with the delightful pungency of garlic.

Onion powder

Onion Powder

Onion powder is a versatile spice that brings the savory flavor of onions to your baked ziti without any of the acidity.

Just like garlic powder, onion powder can be sprinkled directly onto your ziti or mixed into the tomato sauce to evenly distribute its flavor.

Its mild and slightly sweet taste adds depth to the dish, enhancing the overall savory profile and creating a well-rounded and satisfying flavor experience.

Red pepper flakes

Red Pepper Flakes

For those who enjoy a little heat in their baked ziti, red pepper flakes are an excellent addition. These tiny flakes bring a gentle fiery kick that complements the richness of the dish without overpowering it.

Whether you prefer a milder or spicier ziti, the amount of red pepper flakes can be adjusted according to your personal preference. Simply sprinkle the flakes over the top of the ziti or mix them into the sauce before baking to infuse your dish with a delightful touch of heat.

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Bay leaves

Bay Leaves

While not commonly associated with baked ziti, bay leaves can actually add a subtle yet unmistakable depth of flavor to the dish. These aromatic leaves have a slightly floral and herbal taste that infuses your ziti during the baking process.

Placing a couple of whole bay leaves in the tomato sauce as it simmers allows the flavors to meld together, resulting in a subtly enhanced flavor profile that sets your baked ziti apart from the ordinary.


Smoked Paprika

Paprika is a spice derived from dried and ground peppers, with a rich red color and a slightly smoky flavor. The addition of paprika to your ziti can introduce a delightful complexity, adding a subtle smokiness and depth to the overall taste.

Dust a light layer of paprika over the top of your dish before baking to provide a visually appealing reddish hue and develop a nuanced flavor that will surprise and captivate anyone who takes a bite.

Black pepper

Black Pepper

Black pepper is a pantry staple that should never be underestimated when it comes to enhancing the flavors of your baked ziti. Its distinctive sharp and slightly spicy taste brings a delightful element of heat and complexity to the dish.

Freshly ground black pepper is ideal for achieving the best flavor, as it releases its essential oils to create a more intense and aromatic experience. Season your ziti with a generous sprinkling of black pepper to give it a zesty kick and elevate the overall taste.



Nutmeg may seem like an unconventional addition to baked ziti, but its warm and slightly sweet flavor can provide a unique twist to this classic dish.

Just a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg will do the trick, as it adds a subtle yet unmistakable depth to the flavors, complementing the richness of the cheese and tomato sauce.

Incorporating nutmeg into your ziti will surprise and intrigue your taste buds, making it a memorable and unforgettable culinary experience.

Fennel seeds

Fennel seeds

Fennel seeds may not be on everyone’s radar, but they are an underrated spice that can truly transform your baked ziti. The seeds have a distinctive licorice flavor that mellows and becomes slightly sweet when toasted.

By toasting them before adding them to your dish, you can release their full fragrance and subtle sweetness, elevating the overall taste. Sprinkle some crushed or whole toasted fennel seeds onto your ziti before baking to infuse it with a unique and delicious flavor profile.


What goes good with baked ziti?

Baked ziti is a versatile dish that pairs well with a variety of accompaniments. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Garlic bread or breadsticks: These bread options are perfect for mopping up the delicious sauce and cheese from your ziti.
  • Salad: A side salad, such as a crisp green salad or a caprese salad, can provide a refreshing contrast to the richness of the ziti.
  • Roasted vegetables: Oven-roasted vegetables, such as zucchini, bell peppers, or eggplant, make for a tasty and healthy side dish that complements the flavors of the ziti.
  • Italian sausage or meatballs: If you’re craving a meaty addition, serving baked ziti with Italian sausage or meatballs can take it to the next level and add extra protein and flavor to the meal.
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Should you cover baked ziti when cooking?

While it’s not necessary to cover baked ziti when cooking, it can be helpful in certain situations. Covering the dish with aluminum foil or a lid during baking helps retain moisture, prevents excessive browning, and helps melt the cheese evenly.

If you notice that the top of the ziti is browning too quickly or the pasta is drying out, covering it loosely with foil can help mitigate these issues. Toward the end of the cooking time, you can remove the foil to allow the cheese to develop a desirable golden crust.

How do you make ziti not dry?

To prevent dryness in your baked ziti, follow these tips:

  • Don’t overcook the pasta: Be sure to cook the ziti just until it is al dente, or slightly firm to the bite. This will prevent the pasta from becoming too soft or mushy after baking.
  • Moisten with sauce: Make sure the ziti is thoroughly coated in sauce. An ample amount of sauce will keep the pasta from drying out during the baking process.
  • Add moisture-enhancing ingredients: Incorporate components that add moisture and richness to your ziti, such as ricotta cheese, cream, or additional sauce.
  • Cover with foil: As mentioned earlier, covering the dish with foil during part of the baking time can help retain moisture and prevent the top layer of cheese from drying out.

What is ziti casserole made of?

Ziti casserole, also known as baked ziti, typically consists of cooked ziti pasta, tomato-based sauce (often marinara or Bolognese), cheese (such as mozzarella or ricotta), and often additional ingredients like ground meat, herbs, and spices. The pasta is typically boiled until al dente, then mixed with the sauce and any desired additions. The mixture is then placed in a baking dish, topped with cheese, and baked until it becomes hot and bubbly, with a golden crust on top. The exact recipe may vary, as personal preferences and regional variations can influence the specific ingredients and techniques used.

13 Best Herbs and Spices for Baked Ziti

13 Best Herbs and Spices for Baked Ziti

This post dives into the world of baked ziti and explores the 13 best herbs and spices that can take this classic Italian dish to new heights. From the aromatic flavors of basil, oregano, and thyme to the unique touches of rosemary and fennel seeds, each herb and spice is carefully detailed for its distinctive contribution to baked ziti.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Herbs, Spices
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people
Calories 11 kcal


  • Basil
  • Black Pepper
  • Onion Powder


  • Select your favorite herbs and spices from this post.
  • Organize all of the required ingredients.
  • Prep a delicious baked ziti dish in 30 minutes or less.