Baked Ziti With Italian Sausage

 

Looking to break away from your typical spaghetti dinner?

Need something simple and tasty to serve on a school night?

Want a dish that will impress everyone at the table as soon as they take their first bite?

Baked ziti with italian sausage is the perfect choice for you!

 

A Little History

Baked ziti, or “ziti al forno” has an interesting history.

From as early as the renaissance, baked ziti was served to nobles at ceremonies and celebrations.

It’s a popular food for southern Italian wedding receptions, too, even today.

In fact, the word “ziti” comes from the word “zite”, which means “fiancee”.

And, for many of us nothing says “love” quite like a good pasta dish!

 

The Health Benefits of this Meal

Don’t fall into the misguided mindset that all pasta creations are unhealthy.

Remember, everything in moderation.

There’s only 8 oz of pasta in this dish that easily serves eight people.

One of the three cheeses used in the dish is Ricotta.

This cheese is a great source of protein, vitamins A and B, as well as calcium and zinc.

And it’s notably low in sodium.

Buy Italian sausage that’s fresh made in the store and you’ll bypass most of the extra additives that you don’t need in your diet.

 

Preparing Your Ziti

And the good news is this.

There are no master culinary skills needed to prepare this casserole of comfort.

It includes a flavorful tomato sauce layered with Italian sausage, ricotta cheese, parmesan, and mozzarella.

These fabulous ingredients are layered into a casserole dish and baked for 20-30 minutes or until it begins to bubble.

As for the tomato sauce, my recipe includes instructions for a very simple sauce that will make your mouth water.

Or, use your own sauce recipe if you have a favorite.

To make this yummy dish on a busy weeknight, simmer your sauce on the weekend and keep it refrigerated until you assemble the casserole.

Or, hey, don’t feel guilty about buying a jarred sauce if you’re in a time crunch.

Just read the label and choose a sauce that has the fewest number of additives and preseratives as possible.

Is there a rumble in your tummy yet?

Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage
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Yield: Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 2 cups fresh ricotta
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 2 teaspoons basil, dried
  • 2 cups mozzarella, shredded
  • 8 oz ziti pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • kosher salt
    Tomato Sauce
  • 1 28-oz can can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 16-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 onion, chopped medium dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add Italian sausage to the pan and sauté until sausage is cooked through, breaking apart any large pieces with the back of a wooden spoon as it cooks.
  3. Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside.
  4. Return the pan to the heat and add onion.
  5. Sauté onion until the onion browns slightly. (If the pan is dry add a bit of olive oil.)
  6. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, a minute or two.
  7. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce.
  8. Simmer for 1 hour or until the sauce becomes fragrant.
  9. Stir in the Italian seasoning.
  10. While the sauce is cooking combine ricotta, parmesan, and 2 teaspoons dried basil, set aside until ready to assemble the casserole.
    Casserole Assembly
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Spread half the tomato sauce across the bottom of the casserole dish.
  3. Top with the ziti and Italian sausage.
  4. Dot the ziti and Italian sausage with the ricotta mixture.
  5. Distribute the mozzarella over the ricotta.
  6. Spoon the remaining sauce over the mozzarella.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes or until casserole is bubbling.
  8. Remove from oven and let casserole to sit for 10 minutes or so before serving.
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