This amazing Baked Ziti recipe is layered with Italian sausage, ricotta cheese, sweet marinara sauce and plenty of mozzarella. Serve this Baked Ziti with a simple garden salad and crusty French bread. It is an easy friend and family favorite and serves quite a crowd. No worries if you don’t have a big crowd to feed because leftovers heat up like a dream.
School is right around the corner and with it brings lots and lots of activity. This yummy pasta dish is prepared in a few simple steps making it ideal for busy families. So easy that even your tween or teens could pitch in and lend a helping hand. It is a full meal in and of itself! But if it is a special occasion or I am entertaining an extra large crowd I like to serve it with Italian Chopped Salad with Fresh Italian Dressing and Cheese Garlic Bread.
How to make Baked Ziti
Start by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile in a large skillet over medium heat brown your ground Italian sausage breaking it up as you go. Then add the chopped onion and cook for a few minutes. Next reduce the heat, add the garlic, dried oregano and basil and cook for an additional minute. Then drain any excess grease and add the marinara letting it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Once the water boils cook your pasta al dente and drain well. Now in a medium bowl stir together together the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella, parsley, black pepper and egg.
In a large casserole dish spread a thin layer of the sauce then top with half of the ziti pasta. Next top with half of the sauce and the ricotta cheese. Then top with the remaining pasta and the rest of the sauce. Now sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella. Finally bake uncovered for about 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.
Tips and recipe notes for Baked Ziti
- Cook the ziti pasta al dente which means slightly firm. Pasta packaging includes cooking times for firm noodles. This is advised as the pasta will be baked and no on wants soggy noodles.
- Purchase good quality Italian sausage. My butcher sells it freshly ground and mixed with fresh spices. It adds such great flavor.
- Drain any excess grease from the sausage. It takes just a minute and it is healthier.
- I use my favorite jarred marinara but any good quality red pasta sauce will work as well. If you have the time homemade is even better.
- Always use good quality mozzarella and Parmesan. Freshly shredded and grated cheese adds so much flavor without any added preservatives or anti-clumping ingredients.
- Do not over bake the pasta as you do not want to dry it out. Cook just until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.
- Chicken Baked Ziti: Substitute cooked ground or cooked cubed chicken for the Italian sausage. Rotisserie chicken is excellent for this because it is flavor packed.
- Vegetarian Baked Ziti: Omit sausage and add a can of fire roasted tomatoes and 10 ounces of thawed frozen spinach (well drained and chopped) to the sauce. Sauteed zucchini and or yellow squash is also a delicious addition.
- Baked Ziti with Meatballs: Substitute 1 – 1 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen meatballs in place of the Italian sausage. Brown them in the skillet, then add the onion and other spices as directed. Simmer in the marinara.
This Baked Ziti pasta casserole is loaded with Italian Sausage, marinara, ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and baked to a hot luscious gooey delight. Serve with a simple garden salad and crusty French bread.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- Category: main meal pasta
- Method: bake
- Cuisine: Italian
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 1 small onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 32 ounces marinara sauce or pasta sauce
- 16 ounces ziti pasta
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian Parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 egg
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Bring a pot of water to a boil.
- In a large skillet over medium heat brown the Italian sausage breaking it up as you go. Add the chopped onion; cook for 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat, add garlic, dried oregano and basil; cook for 1 minute. Drain any excess grease. Add marinara and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Once the water boils cook pasta al dente and drain well. In a medium bowl stir together the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella, parsley, black pepper and egg.
- In a 13 x 9 inch casserole dish spread a thin layer of sauce. Top with half of the ziti pasta. Then top with half of the sauce and the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with the remaining pasta and the rest of the sauce. Top with the remaining mozzarella.
- Bake uncovered 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.
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