Ziti Pasta with melted cheese on a White Dinner Plate

Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno Olive Garden One Pot Recipe

Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno from Olive Garden was my go-to dish in college. I’d devour the entire thing in no time flat, and have tried recreating it at home many times with no luck.

Until now! And you know what else? I’ve lightened it up, but it still tastes exactly like the OG (see what I did there? HA)!

Oh, and did I mention: it’s also completed, start-to-finish, in ONE pot.

Ziti Pasta with melted cheese on a White Dinner Plate

What’s a One Pot Meal?

Much like the name suggests, you use just one pot to make this pasta. Not one pot for boiling your pasta and one pot for making your sauce. Literally one pot for everything. Can I get a hallelujah?

Ingredients to make a pasta dish sitting on a table

Lighter Ingredients, Full Flavor

In order to lighten up this dish, I’ve cut back on the amount of cheese slightly. Another change I’ve made is to swap heavy cream out for evaporated milk. Evaporated milk is milk that’s pressure cooked until it loses half its water content. As a result, you get a creamier version of milk, without all the calories of heavy cream.

Dry penne pasta, minced gar garlic, parmesan and mozzarella cheese in bowls on a wooden table

How to make a lightened up Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno at home

This recipe really is so simple. You need very little prep to make this delicious, copycat Olive Garden dish.

First, you’ll combine your chicken broth, evaporated milk, salt, pepper, minced garlic and dry pasta. I actually use penne pasta rather than ziti, as I can never find ziti in whole wheat form. However, if you don’t mind using white pasta, finding ziti will be no problem!

Once your ingredients are in the pot together, you’ll place the lid on and cook over medium heat. When it comes to a simmer, remove the cover and let it cook another 10 minutes.

Then, turn the heat down to low and add your pasta sauce. My absolute favorite marinara happens to come from Aldi. It’s so yummy, you can eat it straight. Highly recommend!

Finally, add your fresh parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. As they melt, the sauce will begin to thicken. Give the pasta a few minutes to rest, and the sauce will soak up the sauce and thicken up a bit more.

We love to eat ours with a side of garlic bread (made from a loaf of my kids’ favorite homemade french bread!) and roasted broccoli. It really is just the original Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno I knew and loved in college! But much healthier and way cheaper.

Ziti pasta in red sauce with cheese in a pot

Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno

A healthier copycat recipe of the favorite Olive Garden dish
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people


  • Large, shallow saucepan


  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 8 oz ziti or penne pasta dry
  • 1 cup marinara
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese shredded
  • ¼ cup mozzarella cheese shredded


  • In a large, shallow saucepan, combine broth, evaporated milk, garlic and dry pasta. Cover and heat on high until it begins to simmer.
  • Remove lid once pasta begins to simmer. Turn heat to medium and simmer another 10 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Turn heat down to low.
  • Add in marinara sauce; stir to combine. Gradually add in cheeses; stir until cheese is melted and sauce begins to thicken.
  • Allow pasta to rest five minutes before serving. As it sits, the sauce will thicken.
Keyword easy, pasta, quick

Recipe adapted from Cooking With Karli

Ziti Pasta on a White Dinner Plate
Ziti Pasta on a White Dinner Plate
Ziti Pasta with melted cheese on a White Dinner Plate
Ziti Pasta with melted cheese on a White Dinner Plate

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