Save time and make this Healthy Instant Pot Baked Ziti for the 21 Day Fix whenever you are craving a bowl of warm and cheesy comfort food! Packed with protein and veggies, this Healthy Baked Ziti is gluten-free with a dairy free option, as well! This post contains affiliate links for products I’m obsessed with.
Confession #149: I really struggled with what to call this recipe. I settled on Instant Pot Baked Ziti, but please know I am aware of the following:
- this Instant Pot Baked Ziti is not baked…unless you decided to add that extra step at the end and I honestly, as much as I love me some crispy cheese, do not find it necessary.
- this is not actually ziti in my bowl. It’s Penne. For some reason, finding gluten-free ziti in my favorite brands proved way too difficult and I’ve honestly wanted to get this post out for months. So I settled for a similarly tubular shaped pasta.
I hope you can overlook these facts and just make this yummy pasta dish – whatever you want to call it – because it’s so darn yummy and as easy as it gets, too, thanks to the magic of the Instant Pot. Truly, it deserves this chance.
I tested this one a bunch of times (to my husband’s excitement), mainly because I was adamant about using crushed tomatoes instead of pasta sauce, because as much as I LOVE having a jar of my 21 Day Fix Homemade Tomato Sauce handy, sometimes I just don’t. And no sugar added jar sauce can be expensive…and I don’t love the taste of all of them. Not to mention, I almost always have cans of crushed tomatoes stocked in my pantry.
It’s one of my staples!
Turns out, a regular can of crushed tomatoes with some added spices works like a charm! I did a similar thing with my Italian Chicken Skillet , another quick and easy meal!
One of the keys to making Instant Pot dishes with tomato sauce is to keep the sauce near the top of the pot so you don’t trigger a burn notice. One of the tricks I have learned over time and it has saved many dinners!
Check out how I layer the ingredients in this video! So super easy!
Don’t have an Instant Pot yet? Guess what…I have three, but this one is my favorite!
And to answer some of your questions about this dish:
Is this Baked Ziti Gluten-free?
Yes! I used Banza Chickpea noodles for mine because they are full of protein and fiber, but you can use any gluten free pasta you want!
Can this Instant Pot Baked Ziti be frozen?
Of course! Just let it cool completely before placing it in an airtight container. You can freeze it for up to three months.
Can I use ground beef or another protein in this Healthy Instant Pot Baked Ziti?
Absolutely! I love it just as much with ground beef! You could also use ground turkey or chicken if you prefer!
Can I make this Instant Pot Baked Ziti vegetarian?
You can definitely make this meal vegetarian…just take out the meat and replace it with your favorite veggies. I love it with squash and cauliflower!
I also make this dish dairy free for my son by scooping out his portion before I add the cheeses. He LOVES this dinner!
My kids don’t like spinach, can I leave it out?
Totally. My kids go through phases where they won’t eat anything green, so I get this!!! I will sometimes replace the spinach with cauliflower rice like in my 2B Mindset Cauliflower Taco Meat and they are none the wiser!
Healthy Instant Pot Baked Ziti
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 1 ¼ lean ground beef or Italian poultry sausage removed from casing
- ½ onion diced
- 2 teaspoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- Himalayan salt
- ½ cup water to scrape off any burned bits
- 2 ¼ cups gluten free pasta
- 28 oz crushed tomatoes 1 large can
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil or 1 tsp dried
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 cups chopped spinach
- ¾ cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup freshly shredded or cubed mozzarella
- ⅓ cup Pecorino Romano or high quality Parmesan Cheese
- Set Instant Pot to saute and coat with olive oil cooking spray. Add in meat and brown until almost cooked through. Add in diced onions and cook until onions begin to get tender. Drain meat if necessary, then add in olive oil and garlic. Stir and cook until garlic is fragrant. Sprinkle meat mixture with salt.
- Add water to the Instant Pot and use a wooden spoon to scrape off any brown bits at the bottom of the pot, so you don’t trigger a burn notice. Then layer uncooked pasta over meat mixture.
- Mix basil and oregano into the crushed tomatoes and then layer that over the pasta. Do not stir!
- Place lid on your Instant Pot and set on manual/pressure cook for three minutes if you are using Banza pasta, for regular gluten free (brown rice or corn based), set it for two minutes
- After cook time, do a quick release. When it’s safe and all air has been released, carefully open lid. Give everything a stir, then add in chopped spinach. Allow spinach to wilt for a moment before stirring in ricotta and parmesan cheese. Top with shredded mozzarella and place lid on IP so cheese will melt. Alternatively, you can place the pasta mixture in a broiler safe dish, top with cheese, and broil for a few minutes watching carefully until cheese is brown and bubbly.
- Enjoy with addition parmesan cheese, if desired!
Love this recipe so much! If I were to double it how much would I need to increase the cooking time to??
To double, keep everything the same, including the cook time! Great idea, it’s such a yummy dinner!
Nikki Cloutier says
Can you make this using quinoa instead of ww pasta? What would the cooking time be and would it need more liquid?
Using quinoa or quinoa pasta?
I want to know if it will be a good recipe for my GCSE’s and if it is suitable for a child with autism??
is this alright for someone who has autism?
cause this will help with my GCSE’s
I don’t think I understand your question – can you elaborate?
This ziti is so incredibly delicious and feels like such an indulgence! It is by far one of my favorite 21 Day Fix recipes and I make it regularly. Every time I eat it, I say how I can’t believe it’s on plan! I would make this even if I wasn’t doing the fix. Thanks for such an awesome recipe! I love your site and make so many of your recipes – they are always delicious, but this one is exceptional!
Any tips on using frozen spinach for this recipe?
Thaw it and then squeeze out all the extra liquid with a clean dish towel! It should work great!
Do the instructions change at all if you are not adding any cheese? I am dairy free. Thanks!
Hi! You can follow the directions as written and use some kite hill ricotta and your favorite dairy free mozzarella, or simply omit adding the cheese. Everything else in the directions can stay the same!
Jessica Rozema says
YUMMMM! Finally made this and it was delicious. I used ground beef and whole wheat noodles, added some red pepper flakes too. Definitely making it onto my meal prep rotation.
I followed the written directions and video directions to a T and unfortunately in my Duo 6qt instant pot the pasta didn’t cook at all 🙁
I do appreciate the recipes that you take the time to create though and look forward to trying more!
Bummer! Thanks for trusting the recipes and please keep coming back for new ones to try!
Hi! Any idea how long I should cook Fiber Gourmet pasta? Packaging says normal cook time is 6-10 mins. I find 6-7mins is al dente and 7-8mins is cooked through on stovetop. Thank you in advance!
I read somewhere to do half the time, minus two minutes for pasta in the IP!
Can anything else be used to replace the ricotta? I normally makes this with it, but we can’t get any right now.
Cottage cheese maybe? I’d try a little less, with more mozzarella cheese.
I’m going to use whole wheat penne. Are 2 cups considered a half a box of pasta?
Well, that would depend on how many ounces your box is…so I would measure for best results :).
Dana Marie says
So delicious!! I will make this again and again. I used brown rice and quinoa pasta, Walmart brand and set mine for 3 mins but it needed another min. I just left the lid on for a bit on warm and it was done. I used frozen Italian turkey sausage and pressure cooked it for 20 mins beforehand and chopped it up. Next time I want to try chicken breast!! I also didn’t add any cheese besides ricotta to save my blue and it was still deliciously cheesey still. My husband went back for seconds and he never dies that with my “healthy” food.
Sorry for the delay, but this makes me so happy!! Thank you for your awesome rating and review, Dana!
Thank you for your amazing recipes! I couldn’t believe how quick, easy and tasty this was!
My whole wheat pasta was still hard in spots at 4 min in my 6 quart though. Do you suggest adding more cook time or leaving the lid on longer?
This was soooo delicious! I rarely eat pasta because it always feels so heavy and unhealthy. This was quite the opposite! Tasty and delightful without all the calories! Thanks so much!
YAY!!! This makes me SO HAPPY!!!
Melody D Pizzi says
My noodles were still super crunchy after 2 minutes in the instant pot with sauce and meat…no idea what went wrong. Anyone else run into this issue?
What kind of noodles did you use?
I made this tonight for dinner and it felt like I was cheating! So delicious. Even my picky 5 year old and 3 year old enjoyed it. Thanks for the great recipe!
This made my day, Sarah! Thank you!
Katie Ming says
I was wondering if this could be converted to a slow cooker? Or would it just be better as a stove pot since I do not have an Instant Pot (really need to purchase one though!)
Hi! I have not tried it in the slow cooker, but I am curious. I guess my fear is mushy noodles, so I would probably play it safe and go with your stove top for this one. And yes, get an IP, lol!
Myrna B Malkin says
It seems like you would need to add water at the beginning.
It works for me with this level of liquid…that being said, you can always add extra if you feel your pot is sensitive
This is just cheesy goodness! An instant family favorite. I was even able to sneak in the Banza pasta and no one noticed!
That’s AWESOME!! Thank you so much for letting me know!!
I kept getting burn notice, how do you get rid of it when you aren’t supposed to stir?? Also pasta didn’t ever finish cooking because it didn’t seem like there was enough liquid?? It looked so delicious in your picture😔 first recipe in the IP that hasn’t worked for me.
What kind of pot do you have? I am sorry it didn’t work for you – it’s frustrating because I have made this so often, but I never had the burn message and my pasta always cooks.
Heather Clarke says
I have a 6 qt IP, should i stir it when I get burn notice and then reset it to 4 minutes? I used regular pasta, not GF
For this recipe, I would maybe just add some water and gently poke around to see what’s going on. What did it look like when you opened it? Also, this might help https://confessionsofafitfoodie.com/burn-message/…I am wondering if you need to deglaze your pot well after sautéing. Some pots are really sensitive!
Heather Clarke says
Thank you so much for your thoughts, it was still edible, the pasta was just a little dry and not as cooked as it should have been. I will try more liquid next time, it really didn’t seem thin enough to me but I just went with the recipe!
Ugh, as a bunch have said, my noodles didnt cook all the way. Not even close. Hard as a rock! I used Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Penne Pasta and my IP is the IP-LUX. I put it back in for another 2 minutes which essentially just started it all over again…tick tock tick tock…not fun when I have a hungry and now grumpy family waiting for their food! Eek! Now my noodles are mushy. Bummer.
I think next time I will try starting out with 4 minutes.
I’m so sorry – what brand of noodles did you buy?
Thank you for this recipe!! I’ve been craving a baked pasta dish that is allergy friendly! I made this for my family tonight and used Follow Your Heart Vegan Mozzarella and ground chicken! Followed the directions and everything turned out wonderfully! Both kids ate it and hubby went back for seconds!
This is awesome! So many people will be helped knowing your subs work – thank you for taking the time!
Turned out great!! Thank you! I used veggie noodles and it was delicious.
Oh, awesome! What kind of veggie noodles?
Also, if I wanted to add mushrooms for additional veggies, when would I do this (at what step) and for how long do I cook them? Thanks!
Hi! I would add them to the meat mixture when you are almost finished with the saute step.
If we are using whole wheat penne, how long do we cook the pasta in the IP? I have a 6 quart duo.
Hi! I would do 4 minutes for whole wheat!
I did 4 minutes and it turned out perfect!!
Dan K. says
Is there a way to get the nutrition breakdown for this recipe?
You can plug the ingredients into My Fitness Pal for info!
Good but noodles were undercooked too. I have IP lux 60.
Next time, add a minute!
I made it tonight with whole wheat pasta and used the 10 mins suggested above, with quick release. Worked great! The serving of 1 1/4 Cups equals only 1 yellow with 21 Day Fix?
Oh, great! And yes – this makes 6 servings and it’s only one yellow of pasta in that count!
Michelle Harris says
So, how long did you cook it for? 4 minutes than 10 minutes of slow release? Just want to get the timing right. I’m using the small whole wheat penne pasta. The bigger penne never seems to cook enough for me (the whole wheat version).
HANDS DOWN the BEST recipe we’ve tried yet!! I followed the directions 100% with exception of using whole wheat rotini instead. After release, I left the lid on for 10 minutes while I made my salad and everything was cooked to perfection. My picky fiancé who normally will pick out ALL veges (no matter how small) ate every single bite and went back for seconds!!! My Mother in law mentioned how tasty it was through the entire dinner and then said she looked forward to having it for lunch the next day. BIG WIN in our home. This dish WILL impress at pot lucks and work luncheons for sure.
Ahhh!!! This is awesome, Alexis!! I love when a recipe is so tasty people will willingly eat their veggies!!
Kristen Anne says
Can you omit the meat? I can’t stand anything but poultry. Would the cooking time change?
Sure – maybe add some extra veggies then to bulk it up. And you can keep the time the same!
This was so easy and kept me on plan instead of ordering pizza!
Nancylynn, I love this recipe and you have totally helped me to fall in love with my IP! I have a question about doubling the recipe… can you do that in the IP (6 qt). I’d love to have some in the freezer for lazy weeks!
I really liked the taste of this but my pasta didn’t cook!! We even went back and tried adding some water but the bottom kept burning. How can I get the pasta to cook? I layered it exactly how you have shown. I really want to try this again, but the al dente pasta was not good 🙁
What kind of pasta did you use? Also, what size Instant Pot do you have? Did you get the burn message from the start?
My pasta also did not cook, less done than al dente. Used gf penne. Triple checked that I followed every step
Hi Sarah – what size and model pot do you have? Did you get a burn message?
Can cottage cheese be substituted for the ricotta cheese?
Any idea how many carbs are in this dish per serving
I don’t count carbs, but you can use my fitness pal to get that info!
How would you recommend making this if you don’t have an instapot?
I would cook the meat and boil the pasta while it’s cooking…then mix everything together (including the cheese) and bake at 350 until the cheese is melty!
Would you cook the peeled tomato too?
I’m not sure what you are asking? Glad to help if you want to try again!
When do I add the cauliflower rice?
This recipe doesn’t call for it, but you can add it if you want!
Hi Nancylynn!!!! So excited for the emails, it’s going to be so much help since I’m always searching for your recipes!! I have made lots of your recipes and they are all to die for ❤️❤️
YAY!! Thank you, Margie!!! I heart you, lady!!
I used to make Baked Ziti for my family, but it was too unhealthy so I haven’t made it for a loooong time. My family is happy to have your delicious dish back on rotation. Thank you!!
That’s my whole goal!!! So glad you can enjoy a family favorite again!! <3
Carrie Dunning says
This is what I love about so so so many of Nancylynn’s recipes! After avoiding certain “unhealthy” dishes for so long, it’s so wonderful to be able to get healthier “no guilt” versions back into the regular rotation!
Could you use regular pasta in this recipe? We have no allergies and being overseas I sometimes find it hard to find some items.
Yes! You can cook it for 4 minutes 🙂
I did 4 minutes and my pasta is still kinda hard…I’m using wheat pasta
Just pop the lid back on the pot and let it sit for a few minutes. The steam/heat should finish the pasta!
Yes! You can cook it for 3 minutes 🙂