Nadal, ranked fifth in the world, needed just over an hour to dispatch top seed Ferrer and was delighted with his form.
"For me, I played almost perfectly," said Nadal following the match. "My knee responded well all week."
Nadal also confirmed he would play in next week's Indian Wells hard-court tournament, despite speculation he might skip the event to spare his knee.
"My heart tells me I should continue competing, that I need to move on to the next tournament," he added.
Nadal had been sidelined for more than seven months due to a partially torn tendon in his knee. He made his return early last month at the Chilean Open, losing in the final to Argentine Horacio Zeballos. A week later he claimed the Brazil Open title.
The former world number one charged out of the blocks and won the first eight games against three-time defending champion Ferrer, who saw his 19-match winning streak at the clay-court event come to an end.
"Rafa was just better than me today," said Ferrer.
World No.4 Ferrer waited 44 minutes to win his first game of the final, the crowd erupting in applause as he put away a service winner to trail 2-1 in the second set.
With Ferrer serving down 3-1, an extended rally in which both players scrambled back and forth from the net ended with a top-spin lob winner by Nadal, bringing the crowd to its feet and the score to 30-30.
Second seed Nadal, the 2005 Mexican Open champion, won the next two points to go up two breaks in the set and virtually put the match away.
He pocketed $291,800 in prize money for the win.
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