The Very BEST Baked Ziti Recipe // Video
A Sunday dinner classic, this Baked Ziti Recipe is layer upon layer of cheese, carb-y heaven. Italian sausage, mushrooms and ricotta cheese are blanked between layers of fresh mozzarella and ziti pasta before being baked to a melty masterpiece. The BEST Baked Ziti ever made.
Hello, hello! I’m in the beautiful Napa Valley right now on a business trip and I’m happy to leave the East coast humidity behind me. It’s absolutely stunning here and the food is just out of this world. But being away from my family for awhile does make me a little homesick after a couple days (I mean really, I did enjoy the solitude for a bit but…..) and start to crave the comfort dinners we enjoy on the weekends.
Things like braised short ribs, mashed potatoes and baked pasta dishes just make you feel so cozy and homey. It’s those types of dishes that you make for friends and family for Sunday dinners or as a casual pot luck dish. And this Baked Ziti with Ricotta and Sausage recipe is one you’re going to leave in the front of the recipe box. If you own one.
How do you make the Best Baked Ziti recipe?
Baked Ziti is pretty simple to make but the technique I use here is similar to layering a lasagna. I love to layer the ingredients because it ensures that you get a little bit of everything when you serve it up and take a bite.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to just al dente. Do not overcook or the pasta will not hold up during baking. By undercooking the ziti, it will absorb the flavors of the sauce more readily.
- Saute sausage, mushrooms and onions in a skillet until golden brown. Drain and set aside.
- Stir in half the sauce with the sausage mixture and set aside.
- Beat together ricotta cheese, heavy cream and parmesan cheese.
- Shred up the mozzarella
- Layer all the ingredients in a baking dish (see recipe instructions for how-to).
- Bake at 425 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
Can you prepare this Easy Baked Ziti recipe ahead of time?
YES! You definitely can prepare the Baked Ziti recipe ahead of time and it’s even freezer friendly. Just assemble as per the instructions in the recipe card, cover tightly with plastic wrap and foil. Then either refrigerate for up to 48 hours or freeze for up to 2 months.
To cook your refrigerated baked ziti, uncover and bake according to the instructions.
To cook your frozen baked ziti, uncover and remove the plastic wrap. Coat one side of the aluminum foil with cooking spray and lightly cover your baked ziti. Bake at 425 degrees for 60-90 minutes or until baked through. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, uncovered.
Can you use penne for this Baked Ziti recipe?
Certainly, you can use penne in place of the ziti in this Baked Ziti with ricotta. The only difference between penne and ziti is the penne pasta has ridges on the sides which actually helps hold the sauce to the pasta a little better.
Now this recipe is a little more involved than maybe the Baked Ziti the Pioneer Woman makes….it’s more like a Giada Baked Ziti recipe because everything is from scratch. I like to use this Marinara recipe but any of your favorite jarred sauces would work well, too.
This Baked Ziti with Sausage and Ricotta recipe would go so well with a light salad.…that’s all that’s really needed for this hearty, cheesy comfort dish. If you’re looking for more easy baked Italian pasta dinners you should definitely try THIS Baked Chicken Florentine Pasta or THIS Baked Gnocchi Bolognese.
Some more carb-y favorites of ours are this Pasta Primavera which is ready in minutes or you could try THIS easy pasta salad. I’d eat it for dinner any day of the week as a side for a simple grilled chicken.
Want something even easier with the same great flavor? This Crock Pot Baked Ziti is amazing!
The Very Best Baked Ziti Recipe
- 8 ounces Italian sausage casings removed
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 4 ounces button mushrooms finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 cups marinara sauce
- 1 pound ricotta
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan Plus more for grating before serving
- 1 pound ziti
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella cut into bite sized pieces
- Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Place a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the pot and cook to just al dente, approximately 7 minutes. Drain the pasta. Set aside.
- Cook the sausage in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat breaking up into pieces with a fork until no longer pink. Transfer the sausage to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Drain off all but two tablespoons fat from the pan.
- Add the onion and mushrooms to the pan and cook until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Add the tomato paste and cook the mixture until it turns a deep crimson color, approximately 2-3 minutes. Stir in the marinara and remove from the heat.
- In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, heavy cream and parmesan cheese.
- Place the pasta in a large bowl and stir in 2 cups of the sauce.
- Spread a bit of the sauce on the bottom of a 3 quart baking side and top with 1/3 of the pasta.
- Spread 1/3 of the remaining sauce on top and then top with 1/2 the sausage and 1/2 the ricotta mixture.
- Sprinkle with 1/2 the mozzarella and then repeat the layers beginning with the pasta.
- Sprinkle the top layer with a bit more parmesan and place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with foil (for easy clean up)
- Bake 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.