Five Cheese Ziti al Forno is the ultimate in creamy, cheesy, home-cooked goodness! Skip takeout and make this copycat dish in your own kitchen.
Perfectly cooked noodles and a blend of five different cheeses are layered with a delicious homemade sauce.
Then, crispy panko breadcrumbs top the entire thing so every bite is an explosion of texture and flavor.
How To Make Five Cheese Ziti al Forno
While this recipe does require a bit of prep, it comes together quickly and easily once everything is ready to go!
Prepare the pink sauce, which is simply a blend of marinara and alfredo. Once that is about done, boil the pasta and drain.
Combine the pasta and sauce together, then layer it in your baking dish with handfuls of the five cheese blend. Then, top with breadcrumbs and bake!
Serve this Olive Garden Five Cheese Ziti al Forno on its own or with salad and breadsticks on the side.
Tips and Tricks
- Salt your pasta water! This simple step really makes a big difference in the flavor. The general rule is that the water should “taste like the ocean.”
- Reduce the acidity. If you are particularly sensitive to tomatoes, choose the San Marzano variety for your sauce. It’s known to be far less acidic and is usually a bit sweeter too.
- Cheese selection: I used a blend of ricotta, parmesan, fontina, provolone, and mozzarella for this recipe. Feel free to adjust the amounts to suit your tastes or swap in your favorite alternatives. Either way, you will need a generous 2 cups of shreds total.
- Short on time? Combine your favorite marinara and alfredo sauces for this Olive Garden ziti recipe. Then, all you need to do is assemble and bake!
Kitchen Tools You Will Need
- 12-inch Cast Iron or 2.5 Quart Casserole Dish for baking
- A large skillet with a lid – To help the sauce cook evenly, a wide skillet works best. Ideally, it should be more than 12 inches in diameter.
- Large Pot and Strainer for the pasta
- Box Grater – As much as I love buying bagged shreds because it’s easier, freshly grated cheese melts down so much smoother and tastes better too.
- Mixing Bowls – I like to have a variety of sizes on hand, and this set has them all.
FAQ – Common Recipe Questions
What’s the best way to reheat leftovers?
Warm individual servings on the stove with a splash of milk or cream for moisture. Or, bake at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes or until warmed through.
Leftovers should keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days if stored in an airtight container.
Can I freeze Olive Garden Five Cheese Ziti al Forno?
Absolutely! If you used a cast iron skillet for baking, be sure to transfer leftovers to a storage container first.
Otherwise, you can wrap the whole casserole dish in a layer of plastic wrap and foil and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking.
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MORE COPYCAT RECIPES
Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno (Olive Garden)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 medium white onion, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
- 6 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 pound ziti pasta
- 1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
- 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup grated provolone
- 1/2 cup grated mozzarella
- 1 cup whole ricotta cheese
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, for garnish
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook diced onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until soft and translucent. Add garlic to the pan and cook 1-2 minutes longer until the garlic is fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes, oregano, basil, tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, and sugar. Stir to combine and bring sauce to a simmer. Simmer over low heat, covered, for 30-60 minutes.
- During the last 10 minutes of the sauce simmering, boil pasta in salted water according to package directions. Cooked until just al dente (about 10 minutes), it will continue to cook in the oven. Drain pasta.
- Toss together the fontina, parmesan, provolone, and mozzarella cheese until mixed.
- Remove the bay leaves from sauce.
- Add ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of the four cheese mixture, and the heavy cream to the sauce. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring until the cheeses are melted and ingredients are combined.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Add the sauce to the drained pasta and stir to coat. Spread half of the pasta into a 12-inch oven-safe skillet or casserole dish. Sprinkle another ½ cup of cheese over the pasta and then the remaining pasta.
- Mix together 1/2 cup of panko crumbs, the remaining 1 cup of cheese mixture, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta.
- Cover and bake for about 20 minutes or until topping is melted and lightly browned.
- Garnish with chopped Italian flat leaf parsley.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published October 2021
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