Dairy Free Baked Ziti
Classic and comforting, this dairy free baked ziti is sure to be a family favorite! With layers of tender pasta, saucy marinara, ground meat and a creamy homemade dairy free “ricotta,” it will absolutely remind you of the Italian baked pasta you know and love. Perfect for a weeknight or a cozy holiday meal. Gluten free and soy free options included.
Craving classic Italian comfort food but without all the milk, butter and cheese?
Look no further than this simple dairy free baked ziti.
Filled with layers of chewy pasta, saucy marinara, hearty ground beef and a creamy dreamy homemade dairy free ricotta, it’s totally reminiscent of the original.
And when served with some dairy free garlic bread, a big ol’ green salad or a tray of roasted vegetables?
It’s bound to be a hit with the whole family.
Try it for a weeknight meal, bring it to a potluck or serve for a cozy holiday dinner. Any which way, it’s mealtime perfection.
Tips & Tricks
- For the cashew ricotta – if you forget to soak your cashews overnight, use the following quick soak method instead. Add the cashews to a heatproof bowl, then cover with boiling water. Let soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour, then proceed with the recipe.
- I highly, highly, recommend using a high speed blender as the cashews will blend up so smooth and creamy. You can certainly try using a regular blender, just keep in mind it will take longer to smooth out and won’t have a perfect consistency. I’ve found cashew based sauces can be a bit grainy / strange in texture with a regular blender – they just don’t have enough power.
- I haven’t tried it myself but this dish should be an excellent option for meal prep. Assemble the casserole as directed in the recipe, then cover tightly and store in the fridge (instead of baking right away). When ready to enjoy, let the pan come to room temperature, then bake as directed.
- You can absolutely use a different dairy free milk (or even water) instead of the almond milk in the cashew ricotta.
- Now, if you don’t want to make the cashew ricotta, you can use 8 ounces of a store-bought dairy free ricotta substitute instead (such as Kite Hill). Dollop the ricotta over the pasta (instead of drizzling the cashew sauce), then also top the pasta with about ½ cup of Miyoko’s dairy free liquid mozzarella or a generous sprinkle of dairy free shredded cheese. While we thought the baked ziti tasted better with the homemade cheese sauce, this works great too.
- A different ground meat of choice will work just fine instead of the ground beef. Try ground pork, turkey, chicken or sausage (be sure to check the ingredients – some sausage blends contain dairy!). Depending on the fat content of the meat, you may need to add some oil to the skillet when cooking.
How To Store
Fridge: Let the pasta cool completely then transfer to an airtight container. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
This is one of those dishes that I think tastes even better the following day – making it perfect for leftovers.
Freezer: Alternatively, store the pasta in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to enjoy, thaw in the fridge then rewarm gently.
Additional Dairy Free Pasta Recipes:
- Dairy Free Bolognese
- Dairy Free Vodka Sauce
- Dairy Free Chicken Alfredo
- Dairy Free Salmon Pasta
- Dairy Free Hamburger Helper
- Dairy Free Chicken Noodle Casserole
Did you make this recipe? Rate and review it down below! I’d love to hear from you.
For the cashew ricotta:
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight*
- ⅔ cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
For the pasta:
- 12 ounces uncooked ziti or penne pasta of choice
- 1 pound ground beef (I use 85/15)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 (24 ounce) jar dairy free marinara sauce
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon pepper, or to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish lightly with nonstick spray and set aside.
For the cashew ricotta:
- Drain and rinse the cashews, then add to a high-speed blender along with all the other ingredients.
- Blend on high until completely smooth and creamy (stopping if needed to scrape down the sides), about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Taste and season with additional salt as desired (I usually add about ⅛ teaspoon more), then set aside.
For the pasta:
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add in the pasta and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain and add to a large bowl.
- Meanwhile, set a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add in the ground beef and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink and cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to the large bowl with the pasta.
- Set the same skillet back over medium heat. If the skillet is dry, add in a good drizzle of olive oil. When hot, add the onion and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until tender. Add to the bowl with the pasta, along with the marinara sauce and all of the spices. Mix until well combined, then taste and season with additional salt / pepper as needed (this will depend on your sauce).
- Transfer half of the mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Drizzle half of the cashew ricotta sauce over the top. Layer on the remaining half of the pasta, then finish with another drizzle of the remaining cashew sauce. Cover the pan with foil.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to bake for an additional 10 minutes.
- Let stand for about 15 minutes before serving.
*Add the cashews to a small bowl and cover with water. Allow to soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight. If you forget to soak your cashews, a quick soak method is included in the tips & tricks section in the post above. Please also note you really need a high-speed blender for the cashew ricotta (more information is also included in the post).
Now, if you don’t want to make the cashew ricotta, I’ve included another option using store-bought alternatives in the “substitutions” section in the post above.
To keep this gluten free, use a gluten free pasta of choice.
To keep this soy free, use a soy free marinara sauce.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 375Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 52mgSodium: 687mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 4gSugar: 7gProtein: 23g
Nutrition data shown is an estimate provided by an online calculator and is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered a substitute for a medical professional’s advice.