If you're looking for a vegan pasta dish that's both "cheesy" and creamy without any added oils, this vegan baked ziti is the answer! It's also gluten-free, nut-free and soy-free! Easy to make with a combination of gluten-free pasta, canned tomato sauce and our sunflower seed vegan ricotta, this dish is sure to become a family favorite in your home!
One of the most rewarding things for me is when I make a vegan version of a classic dish and omnivores fall in love with it.
That, my friends, is EXACTLY what happened with this vegan baked ziti.
Even one of the toughest vegan cheese critics (my eldest daughter) gobbled it up and begged for more.
And when I say tough, she's hardcore about her cheese.
So, when she approves one of my veganized cheese recipes, I know it's a winner. 😉
In fact, while I was developing the recipe for my vegan cheese sauce, I kept testing and testing until I had her approval.
When she announced, "THIS is the best one you ever made," I knew it was ready.
Now, it's her go-to French fry dip and broccoli topper. 🙂
Thankfully, I now have another recipe the whole family can enjoy - this baked ziti.
It's not only kid-approved, but also hubby-approved. 😉
I'm honestly super thrilled with the way this dish turned out.
I mean, baked ziti was always my go-to dish.
I made it for every potluck, party, holiday or family gathering since I can remember.
And it was LOADED with cheese.
So, when I decided I wanted to create a dairy cheese free version, I found myself in a bit of a pickle.
How on earth was I going to make my famous baked ziti?
The first time I made a vegan baked ziti, I used store-bought vegan ricotta and store-bought vegan mozzarella.
It was just OK, and with all that vegan mozzarella, there was just way too much oil going on.
Honestly, the mozzarella isn't really necessary. This gluten-free, dairy-free version just uses vegan ricotta for the cheese and is still super cheesy and creamy.
So, let's get to it, shall we?
Ingredients you'll need
- Gluten-Free Penne Pasta - Although it's not the traditional ziti shape, the penne works perfectly as a ziti replacement. For this recipe, I used brown rice pasta (my favorite brand is Jovial), but I would also recommend a lentil pasta (such as Explore Cuisine). Of course, you can use your favorite type. Just be sure to check the ingredients for soy if you are looking to keep this recipe soy-free.
- Canned Tomato Sauce - Many brands offer vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and oil-free canned tomato sauces. Just be sure to check the ingredient labels.
- Sunflower Seed Vegan Ricotta - This sunflower seed cheese is made with raw sunflower seed kernels, water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, apple cider vinegar, fresh basil, black pepper and garlic powder.
How to make this vegan baked ziti
First, you'll have to make the vegan ricotta. You can make it the night before or right before, but the flavors infuse better when it's been refrigerated for at least an hour.
To make the ricotta, soak sunflower seeds in boiling water for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Add the sunflower seeds, water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt and apple cider vinegar to a high-powered blender or food processor.
Blend on high until no chunks of seeds remain, scraping down the sides as needed. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in fresh basil, black pepper and garlic powder.
See the vegan ricotta cheese recipe post for more information and instructional photographs.
When you are ready to make the baked ziti, preheat your oven to 400° F. Then, add 1 cup of tomato sauce to the bottom of a 13" x 9" baking dish and spread it around with a spoon.
Next, boil water and par-cook the pasta for 4 minutes less than the package directs.
For example, if the package's cooking time is 12 minutes, cook the pasta for 8 minutes. If the package gives a range, such as 9-11 minutes, use the average and subtract 4 (so in this case, the pasta would cook for 6 minutes).
Drain pasta and return to pot.
Reserve 1 cup of tomato sauce and add the rest to the pasta. Reserve ¼ cup of ricotta and add the rest to the pasta. Stir to combine.
Transfer the pasta to the baking dish.
Use a spoon to dollop and lightly spread the ¼ cup reserved ricotta randomly on top of the pasta.
Then, spoon on the 1 cup reserved tomato sauce randomly on top of the pasta around the spots with ricotta.
Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 minutes or until heated throughout (you should see bubbling).
Garnish with fresh basil or parsley if desired.
I'm not nut-free. Can I use a nut-based ricotta instead?
Yes, this dish will also work with a batch of our cashew ricotta or 2 cups of our almond ricotta. You will just have to mix in the basil, black pepper and garlic powder as called for in the sunflower seed ricotta.
Can I use homemade or jarred tomato sauce instead of canned?
Sure! Feel free to use homemade sauce or jarred sauce in place of the canned, if desired. Just note that most jarred sauces contain oil, but there are a few that do not such as 365 fat free marinara and Simply Nature marinara.
This vegan main is also perfect for meal prep!
And if you're like me and enjoy Italian dishes as part of your winter and spring holiday traditions, it's great for serving at Christmas or Easter too!
Storing and reheating
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
You can reheat the ziti in the microwave until warmed throughout in a covered microwave-safe dish.
You can also reheat in a 400° F in a covered baking dish until warmed throughout. Line the baking dish with a little sauce before adding the leftover ziti.
You might also enjoy:
Vegan Baked Ziti
- 1 batch sunflower seed ricotta
- 12 oz gluten-free penne pasta (I used Jovial brown rice pasta but also recommend lentil pasta; you can use traditional ziti pasta if not avoiding gluten)
- 1 (28 oz.) *can oil-free, vegan tomato sauce
- 1 (15 oz.) *can oil-free, vegan tomato sauce
- Make the sunflower seed ricotta and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 400° F. Add 1 cup of tomato sauce to the bottom of a 13" x 9" baking dish and spread around with a spoon.
- Boil 3 qts. of water in a 5-qt. pot. Salt the water if desired. Par-cook the pasta for 4 minutes less than the package directs. For example, if the package's cooking time is 12 minutes, cook the pasta for 8 minutes. If the package gives a range, such as 9-11 minutes, use the average and subtract 4 (so in this case, the pasta would cook for 6 minutes). Drain pasta and return to pot.
- Reserve 1 cup of tomato sauce and add the rest to the pasta. Reserve ¼ cup of ricotta and add the rest to the pasta. Stir to combine.
- Transfer the pasta to the baking dish. Use a spoon to dollop and lightly spread the ¼ cup reserved ricotta randomly on top of the pasta. Spoon on the 1 cup reserved tomato sauce randomly on top of the pasta around the spots with ricotta.
- Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 minutes or until heated throughout (you should see bubbling). Garnish with fresh basil or parsley if desired.
(Please refer to the post above for instructional photographs for this recipe)
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