Baked Ziti with Sweet Italian Sausage is a dinner the whole family will love! This flavorful dish can be made ahead of time and is great for sharing with guests and taking to those in need.
If you like lasagna then you are going to love this Baked Ziti even more! It’s easier to make and eat, plus kids LOVE it! If you’re looking for more yummy Italian pasta dishes, try my Creamy Tomato Chicken Florentine Pasta, Pasta con Broccoli, and Easy Beef, Spinach, and Cheese Manicotti.
Bake Ziti with Sweet Italian Sausage
I love a good meaty red sauce and the one in this recipe is divine! The Sweet Italian Sausage gives it so much flavor and contributes to the protein in this dish, helping you feel full. Yes, the sauce is made from scratch but the few extra minutes it takes is well worth it in the end. I first started making this dish 5 years ago and I can still remember my daughter who was one at the time, moaning while eating it because she loved it so much.
How to Make Baked Ziti:
- Brown the sausage and onions together and drain off the fat. TIP: Use a potato masher or meat chopper to easily crumble the meat while cooking.
- Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste, sugar, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer 15-20 minutes until meat is tender.
- Meanwhile, boil the pasta in salted water 2 minutes shy of cooking directions on the package. (You don’t want you pasta mushy after it’s baked.) Drain and rinse in cold water when done.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (if you are planning to bake and eat the Ziti right away) and grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
- In a bowl, mix together ricotta cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, parsley, and salt. Set aside.
- Assemble: Pour half the pasta into the greased baking dish. Top with half of the sauce and then dot the cheese mixture on top and spread into an even layer. Top with the remaining noodles, sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Spray a sheet of foil and cover the Ziti.
- Refrigerate until ready to bake or BAKE for 30-35 minutes until bubbly and cheese is melted.
- Let Ziti cool for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with additional Parmesan and parsley if desired.
Can Baked Ziti be made in advance?
Of course! This is a great meal to make ahead of time. You can assemble all the layers, top it with foil, and then place it in the fridge until ready to bake. Set the ziti on the counter while the oven preheats or honestly I just put the dish in the oven when I start the oven and add 5 minutes to the time.
Because Baked Ziti can be made ahead of time, it is a great meal for preparing and taking to someone in need. Have a friend who just had a baby? a death? a medical emergency? just a hard day? Take them this dish. They can pop it in their oven and eat it that night, keep it in the fridge for a day, or even freeze it. PRO TIP: Make it in a disposable aluminum tray so they don’t have to clean or return a dish to you.
Can you freeze Baked Ziti?
Yes! If freezing, assemble the pasta bake in a disposable aluminum pan. I recommend dividing it among two 8×8 inch pans. After assembling, cover with foil or plastic wrap and then place in a giant Ziploc bag. Label the bag and use within 3 months. To defrost, place in the fridge the day before or stick it in the oven from frozen and bake for 50-60 minutes.
What if I don’t like Ricotta?
If you don’t like ricotta you can substitute it with cottage cheese. Or you can leave out the ricotta and egg and just use the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese for that middle layer.
What type of pasta should I use in Baked Ziti?
You can use ziti or any short length tube shaped pasta like rigatoni, penne, and mostaccioli.
What Meat is in Baked Ziti?
I like to use sweet Italian sausage. Usually it is sold in casings. The easiest way to get the meat out is to cut the sausage link in half and then squeeze out the meat. Yes, it’s kinda gross but it’s delicious! It adds a lot of flavor to the dish.
If you don’t eat pork or want to use sausage you can use ground beef instead. You could also use a mix of the two.
How can I make Baked Ziti without meat?
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the pot. Cook the onions until translucent and then proceed with the recipe.
LOOKING FOR MORE PASTA DISHES? CHECK OUT THESE:
- 5 Cheese Mac & Cheese– Total comfort food right here! You’ll love this flavorful cheesy pasta that’s topped with a crispy Panko and bacon topping.
- Hamburger Helper– Is a super easy meal made in one pot in just 30 minutes! The kids are sure to love this dish!
- Red Lentil Mushroom Ragu is a meatless dish that is high in protein thanks to the lentils.
- White Bean, Sausage, Pumpkin Pasta Bake is a delicious fall dish and a unique way to use pumpkin.
- 30-Minute Pasta Primavera is loaded with fresh vegetables.
- Copycat Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Brio– While I love tomato sauce, this pasta is just as delicious robed in a yummy red pepper sauce.
- Chicken Ranch Pasta Bake– Is a yummy comforting dish that the kids will ask for seconds of.
TOOLS USED TO MAKE THIS ITALIAN SAUSAGE PASTA BAKE:
- 9×13 inch Casserole Dish– This is a standard size casserole dish and can be used for everything from casseroles, to chicken breasts, to brownies. I love that it’s white because it looks nice and goes with any table setting.
- Pot & Skillet Set– These are the skillets and pots I use. They have a heavy bottom making them sturdy and cook the food evenly. I use these multiple times a day.
- Garlic Press– Fresh garlic tastes best and this is the garlic press I’ve been using for the last 8 years. I love it and it’s easy to clean.
Baked Ziti with Sweet Italian Sausage
For the Sauce:
- 1 pound Sweet Italian Sausage, casings removed
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 15 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
- 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For the Filling:
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (I like Parmigiano Reggiano)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound Ziti pasta, (penne, rigatoni, and mostaccioli work too)
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and cook sausage and onions together until meat is browned. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (30 seconds). Drain off fat.
- Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, paste, Italian seasoning, sugar, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, turn to low, cover, and allow to simmer 15-20 minutes until meat is tender.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Begin boiling salted water for pasta. Cook pasta about 2 minutes less than as directed on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, 1 cup mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, fresh parsley, and salt. Set aside.
- Pour half the pasta into the baking dish, top with half the sauce and then spoon the cheese mixture on, spreading it out in an even layer. Top with the remaining noodles, sauce, and 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese. Spray a sheet of foil with cooking oil and then place on top of the ziti.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes until bubbly and cheese is melted. Let it cool 10 minutes and then serve garnished with extra Parmesan cheese and parsley.