Something about winter just says comfort food, right? It’s so nice to just cozy up to a warm from the oven dinner on a bitter cold day. And it’s always nice to dive into a dish that’s loaded with that deliciously irresistible, melty gooey cheese! Baked ziti is a lot like lasagna but it’s faster since they are lazier layers, but of course it tastes equally as good!
With this version I made a simple homemade sauce that doesn’t lack on flavor thanks to the fresh herbs and my go to choice in Italian sausage – Johnsonville All Natural Italian Sausage. I’ve always loved Johnsonville brand sausage, I think they season things perfectly and it always leaves my dishes with great flavor. I also love knowing that it’s made with all natural ingredients! Johnsonville Naturals provide a clean and simple label, and are made with familiar ingredients. They do not contain artificial ingredients, flavors, colors or preservatives. The line focuses on high quality, natural ingredients, such as premium cuts of meat and flavorful spices to deliver great taste.
Other recipes I love to use Johnsonville sausage in are this Italian Sausage, Kale and Tortellini Soup, this Pear Goat Cheese and Italian Sausage Soup and of course in a delicious bowl of Zuppa Toscana. Start with this Ziti and then try the others. I love them all and so does my family! Another thing I love to do with Johnsonville Italian sausage for quick weeknight meal is to brown it in a saute pan then toss in a jar of marinara and serve it over pasta and voila! Easy and delicious! This Baked Ziti does require more effort than that but once in a while when you’ve got the time it’s so worth it. This is comfort food done right!
Yield: About 10 servings
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 3/4 cup chopped yellow onions (1 medium onion)
- 1 lb . Johnsonville All Natural Mild or Hot Italian Sausage
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
- 2 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1/3 cup slightly packed chopped fresh basil , plus more for topping
- 4 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley , divided
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (15 oz) container ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 3 cups (12 oz) shredded mozzarella, divided
- 3/4 cup (3 oz) finely shredded parmesan, divided
- 16 oz . dry ziti pasta
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (for pasta). Heat olive oil in a large saute pan (deep skillet), add onions and saute 2 minutes then add sausage and cook, stirring and breaking up sausage occasionally, until cooked through, adding in garlic during last 1 minute, drain excess fat. Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, 2 Tbsp parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture to a light boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer 15 minutes then remove from heat. In a mixing bowl using a fork stir together ricotta, egg, 2 Tbsp parsley and season with salt and pepper. Mix in 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella and 1/2 cup of the parmesan, set aside.
While sauce is simmering and while preparing cheese mixture boil pasta in salted water according to directions on package. Drain pasta while reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Return pasta to empty pot, immediately add reserved pasta water and 1 cup of the red sauce then toss pasta to coat.
Spray a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with non-stick spray. Spread 1 1/3 cups of the red sauce evenly into bottom of dish, then spread 1/2 of the pasta over sauce then dollop spoonfuls of ricotta mixture all over pasta and flatten slightly then top with remaining pasta. Spoon remaining sauce evenly over pasta layer. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella and 1/4 cup parmesan.
Tent baking dish with foil (don't let it touch the cheese or it will stick) and bake 15 minutes then uncover and bake 10 - 15 minutes longer until cheese is melted throughout. Serve warm.
Recipe source: Cooking Classy
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Johnsonville. The opinions and text are all mine.