Baked ziti with sausage

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PRESENTATION

Recipe by
Tea Orizio

Baked ziti with sausage is an easy pasta casserole topped with sausage ragout, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan. It has all the familiar flavors of classic Sunday lasagna but comes together quickly and it is easy to serve as baked pasta. This is so easy and delicious, and it tastes even better the next day and reheats well, so you'll be excited for leftovers. This recipe, like all traditional recipes, exists in different versions. Some people use just tomato sauce or marinara, others make ragù with ground meat, or a mix of meat and sausage, some add heavy cream or bechamel. Today we will prepare what we think are the best baked ziti, a combination that is our secret! The key to its success is cooking the pasta "al dente" during the initial boil so that it remains perfect after cooking in the oven.

If you love delicious cheesy baked pasta as much as we do, check out these recipes too:

 

INGREDIENTS
Ziti pasta 1 lb (450 g)
Sausage 1 lb (450 g)
Tomato puree 3 cups (700 g)
Ricotta cheese 12 oz (350 g)
Mozzarella cheese 12 oz (340 g)
Parmigiano Reggiano PDO cheese 1 cup (100 g)
Onions 1 - chopped
Basil a few - fresh leaves
Salt 1 tsp
Ground black pepper ½ tsp
Extra virgin olive oil 2 tbsp
Preparation

How to prepare Baked ziti with sausage

Cook pasta in plenty of salted water "al dente" following the package instructions (about 2 minutes ahead of time), it will continue to cook in the oven.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a deep pan, add finely chopped onion and cook until softened and golden.

Combine skinless sausage, torn with a fork, over medium-high heat until it is fully cooked (about 5 minutes).

Add tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and continue cooking, over medium-low heat, for about 15-20 minutes, then turn off.

Spread a ladle of ragù on the bottom of a saucepan (9x13 inch), add cooked pasta and mix until it is completely covered.

Top with a layer of 1/2 grated mozzarella, 1/2 ricotta and 1/2 grated parmesan.

Add remaining pasta, sausage ragout and garnish with remaining cheeses.

Cook at 350°F for 25 minutes, then turn on grill and cook 2-3 minutes to brown the cheese.

Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving then garnish with basil, if desired, and serve.

How to store

Store baked ziti with sausage in an airtight container in the fridge for maximum 2 days.

You can freeze uncooked baked ziti for up to 1 month then thaw overnight in the refrigerator and cook as needed.

Advice

PASTA: For this recipe the classic pasta choice is ziti, a tube-shaped pasta but you can also substitute with any short tube-shaped pasta such as penne or rigatoni.

SAUSAGE: You can replace with minced meat or a mix of meat and sausage. To make vegetarian baked ziti, leave the meat out and add more cheese. Any of these options will work great.

VEGETABLES: Adding vegetables is a great way to turn this pasta casserole into a one-dish meal. The most suitable vegetables for preparing baked ziti are: fried diced courgettes, mushrooms or cauliflower.

Curiosity

Baked ziti, or “ziti al forno,” have an interesting history. Although they are a relatively recent dish in the United States, in Italy they have appeared since the Renaissance. In fact, baked ziti were served to nobles during ceremonies and celebrations and still remain a popular food for wedding receptions in southern Italy today.

Answers and Questions
  • Can baked ziti be made ahead?

    Yes, baked ziti can be assembled the day before, and stored unbaked in the refrigerator. Just cook when the time comes.

  • What is the difference between baked ziti and lasagna?

    Baked ziti are cooked in salted water until al dente and then seasoned with marinara sauce, minced meat or sausage, topped with ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella and then baked in the oven. Lasagna is prepared by layering sheets of pasta, sauce, bechamel and parmesan and then baked.

  • Is ziti pasta the same as penne?

    Ziti are a smooth, cylindrical pasta cut into straight tubes. It has a similar shape to pens, but with straight edges rather than diagonal cuts. The penne are similar in size to ziti but are cut diagonally with a pointed edge.