This baked ziti is a go-to recipe for me. Need to feed a crowd- done. Need a great freezer meal- done. Craving comfort pasta – done. Love cheesy goodness- done. This recipe is loaded with sausage, peppers and three types of cheese so you know it’s going to be good! It makes a heaping 13×9 pan of baked pasta. I make the full recipe and then divide it into two (sometimes 3) smaller pans to bake one and freeze one for later or to give away. Add a salad and crusty bread and dinner is served.
Baked Ziti with Sausage and Peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 sweet peppers, diced large (I used 1 red, 1 yellow)
2 pounds ground spicy Italian sausage (or mild if you prefer)
2 cans (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups marinara sauce
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
16 ounces ziti
1 tub (15 ounce) whole milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 pounds grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
fresh parsley for garnish if desired
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and saute until starting to soften, 3 to 4 minutes, add the peppers and saute another two minutes. Add the sausage and cook until browned. Drain off almost all of the fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture. Add the tomatoes , marinara sauce, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper. Stir, bring to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove 3 to 4 cups of the cooked sauce to a bowl to cool down.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add some salt. Cook the ziti until al dente according to package directions.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a bowl, mix 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, the ricotta, Parmesan, eggs and some salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).
Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps). Add the cooled reserved meat sauce and toss to combine.
Add half the coated pasta to a 13 x 9 casserole dish or lasagna dish. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with half the remaining mozzarella. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta and the remaining sauce and mozzarella.
Bake until bubbling, about 20-25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before sprinkling with chopped parsley (if desired) to serve.
To freeze, cover and freeze before baking. Thaw and bake as directed.
Recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman