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Baked Ziti with Ricotta and Italian Sausage

Baked ziti with ricotta and Italian sausage. It tastes the best while it’s snowing outside. It tastes even better when making it with three kinds of cheese.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casing
  • 1 lb ziti (or any other tubular pasta)
  • 3 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-½ c diced shallots (or onion)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 28-oz can peeled whole plum tomatoes
  • 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 12 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 lb whole milk mozzarella cheese, cut into ½” cubes
  • 3.5 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 bunch (½ c) chopped flat leaf Italian parsley

Instructions

Pasta

  • Either cook and drain pasta as usual OR soak your dried pasta in warm salted water for about 30 minutes before draining and adding it to your baking dish.
  • To soak pasta, pour 1 lb of ziti into a large bowl and fill it up with warm water until all the pasta is covered with water by an inch or so. Add salt (just as you would when boiling pasta in a pot). Let sit for about 30 minutes. Stir once or twice so the pasta won’t stick together. Then drain in a colander.

Sausage

  • Remove the sausage meat from the casing and cook in a little bit of oil in a frying pan over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to break the clumps apart. 

Sauce

  • Heat 3 tablespoon butter and 3 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan until the butter has melted. Adjust the heat. You don’t want the butter to brown, just a light sizzle. 
  • Add about 1-½ c diced shallots (or onion) and cook for 3 minutes until they become soft. 
  • Stir occasionally and season with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper. 
  • Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves), 1 tablespoon dried oregano, and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes. 
  • Cook and stir for one minute. 
  • Add a 28-oz can of peeled whole plum tomatoes and a 15-oz can of tomato sauce. 
  • Bring to a boil, give a good stir, reduce heat, and let simmer for 30 minutes. While it’s simmering, occasionally break up the tomatoes using a wooden spoon or tongs.
  • After 30 minutes, taste, season to your liking, and taste again. 

Putting it all together

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F with the rack placed in the middle. 
  • If your saucepan is big enough, use it. If not, use a large bowl. Combine tomato sauce, pasta, sausage meat, add half the chopped Italian parsley, half the cubed mozzarella, half the finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and all of the ricotta. 
  • Stir nice and easy to mix everything very well and pour into 9 x 13" baking dish.
  • Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake on the middle rack for 45 minutes.
  • Remove, top with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan, and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes. 
  • Before serving, sprinkle with the rest of the Italian parsley. Enjoy!

Notes