Baked Ziti With Ricotta & Sausage

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Baked ziti with ricotta and sausage is rich, savory and flavorful. It boasts pan-crisped Italian sausage, garlic, juicy crushed tomatoes, homemade marinara sauce, and 3 types of cheeses. A delicious weekday dinner.

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Baked Ziti with Ricotta and Sausage served on a white plate and garnished with Italian parsley.

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Is your mouth watering? Dining out at home has never been so exciting! Add this easy baked ziti recipe to your meal plan rotation.

It’s an ideal make-ahead recipe and freezer meal. Take it to a potluck or gathering. Prep it for a meal train delivery. On drop-off day, pair it with a crisp garden salad. Include a copy of the recipe card.

🛒 INGREDIENTS

This hearty Italian dish is made with a combination of refrigerator and pantry staples. Here’s what you’ll need for this delicious pasta bake.

  • Ziti pasta
  • Italian sausage links (hot or mild), raw/uncooked
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic cloves
  • Crushed tomatoes (canned)
  • Water
  • Sea salt
  • Oregano
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Granulated sugar
  • Whole ricotta cheese
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh Italian parsley, for garnishing
  • OPTIONAL GARNISH: fresh basil leaves

    🥩 HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE MEATIER: Use 1.5 pounds of Italian sausage instead of just 1 pound. When making this recipe for Dad, his special request is always the same: please add lots of meat!

    Ingredients for the best baked ziti recipe laid out on a wooden John Boos Board.

    🔪 COOK THE ITALIAN SAUSAGE

    Italian sausage is a raw ground-pork ingredient. The sausage links must be cooked before proceeding with this baked ziti recipe! Prepping the sausage is quick and simple to do with these easy step-by-step instructions.

    Get dinner on the table faster by multi-tasking: cook the ziti al dente, according to package directions.

    • STEP 1: Place a small pot of cold water on the stovetop. Submerge sausage links in the cold water. Do not pierce the casings. Bring to a light boil over medium heat. The sausages will be 3/4 cooked. Remove them from the pot onto paper towels. Lightly pat them dry.
    • STEP 2: Add olive oil to a small skillet over medium-low heat. Transfer the links to the pan. Frequently turn the sausages until they’re cooked and browned with an internal temperature of 160°F. Use a Thermapen or another cooking thermometer to check for doneness. Transfer the sausages to a cutting board.
    • STEP 3: Once the sausages are not too hot to handle, slice them into 1/4-inch rounds.
    • STEP 4: As you multi-task, the pasta should be done cooking. Drain noodles in a colander, then return to the pot.
    Step by step, how to cook sausage for baked ziti recipe.

    🥫 MAKE HOMEMADE MARINARA SAUCE

    Prepare this easy marinara sauce recipe in less than 18 minutes! Experience full-bodied flavor that’s 100% better than store-bought sauce in a jar! It contributes to making this the best baked ziti recipe you’ve ever tasted.

    • STEP 1: Heat olive oil in a large wide skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic. When the garlic sizzles, add the crushed tomatoes with all the liquid from the can. Stir.
    • STEP 2: Pour one cup of water into the tomato can. Swirl it around to collect any tomato pieces and liquid left behind. Pour the water into the skillet. Stir well to incorporate.
    • STEP 3: Add sea salt, dried oregano, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine. Allow sauce to simmer for 15 minutes, or until thickened. The olive oil on the surface should develop a beautiful orange tint.
    • STEP 4: Add 1/4 teaspoon sugar to the sauce. This secret ingredient helps offset the tomato acidity. It enhances the natural flavor and complexity of the marinara sauce. Do a taste test. Adjust spices and sugar, as desired.

    👉🏻 HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE FASTER: Instead of homemade sauce, use a jar of store-bought marinara sauce or spaghetti sauce.

    Four-image collage showing how to make homemade marinara sauce for baked ziti recipe.

    👩🏻‍🍳 ASSEMBLE THE BAKED ZITI

    Now that the prep work is all complete, it’s time to assemble this easy recipe. Here’s how to make the best baked ziti.

    RECIPE PREP: Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9X13 baking dish, or two 8X8 baking dishes.

    • STEP 1: Add the sausage and 3/4 of the marina sauce to the pot of cooked pasta. Fold the ingredients together.
    • STEP 2: Transfer half the baked ziti mixture to the baking dish.
    • STEP 3: Using half the ricotta cheese, spoon it in dollops over the noodle mixture. Sprinkle half the mozzarella cheese on top. With a spatula, pat and spread the cheese into an even layer.
    • STEP 4: Spread remaining ziti mixture on top. Spoon dollops of remaining ricotta over ziti. Do not spread. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Drizzle remaining marinara sauce over the cheese.
    Four-image collage showing how to make easy baked ziti step by step.

    📖 BEST BAKED ZITI RECIPE

    This homemade recipe is deeply satisfying. Here’s how to bake and garnish this Italian favorite:

    1. Tent baking dish loosely with foil.
    2. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 10 minutes more.
    3. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.
    4. Let baked ziti stand 10 minutes before serving.
    5. Garnish with thinly sliced basil and chopped Italian parsley.

    👉🏻 WHAT TO SERVE WITH BAKED ZITI: Pair it with steamed veggies, or a crisp green salad with crunchy mini sourdough croutons. Enjoy it with cheesy breadsticks, garlic bread, or a sourdough baguette with butter.

    Baked Ziti dinner served on a white table with white plates, gold forks, and red wine.

    🧑🏼‍🍳 RECIPE FAQ

    These are the most commonly-asked questions for achieving the BEST results for baked ziti with ricotta and sausage, and the most helpful answers for recipe success.

    Best substitute for ziti pasta?

    Penne is the best swap out for ziti. But these pastas will also work: mostaccioli, rigatoni, or chifferi.

    Best substitute for ricotta cheese?

    The best substitute is Requeson, which is Mexican-style Ricotta. Other swaps include cottage cheese, goat cheese, or mascarpone.

    What’s a healthy add-in for baked ziti with ricotta?

    Add 2 cups of torn fresh spinach leaves. Mix the spinach into the pasta along with the sausage and marinara sauce.

    Make-ahead Instructions?

    After assembling the baked ziti, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. When ready to bake, tent the baking dish loosely with foil. Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes. Remove foil. Continue baking until heated through.

    How to freeze baked ziti?

    After assembling this dish, tightly cover it with 2-3 layers of foil. Freeze it unbaked for up to 3 weeks. Before baking, defrost it in the fridge for 24 hours. Bake according to make-ahead instructions.

      Single serving of baked ziti with ricotta and Italian sausage on a white dinner plate.

      🍽 MORE EASY DINNER IDEAS

      Hungry for more? Try these easy dinner ideas.

      RATE THIS RECIPE! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

      My family goes crazy for this yummy Italian dinner. They say it’s the best baked ziti recipe. If you agree, give it a 5-star rating in the comments below. Then be a recipe hero. Share it with friends. 📌 Pin it to Pinterest.

      Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

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      Baked Ziti with Ricotta and Sausage served on a white plate and garnished with Italian parsley.

      Baked Ziti with Ricotta and Sausage


      5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

      5 from 21 reviews

      • Author: Denay DeGuzman
      • Total Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes
      • Yield: 8 Servings 1x
      Save Recipe

      Description

      This easy baked ziti with ricotta and sausage is hearty, comforting, and deeply satisfying. Made with a flavorful homemade marinara sauce, this Italian recipe is Grandma approved!


      Ingredients

      Units Scale
      • 1 pound Ziti pasta
      • 1 pound (raw) Italian sausage links, hot or mild
      • 2 tablespoons olive oil – for pan frying sausages
      • 1/4 cup olive oil – for marinara sauce
      • 7 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed or minced
      • 1 28ounce can crushed tomatoes
      • 1 cup water
      • 1 teaspoon sea salt
      • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
      • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
      • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar, or as desired
      • 1 15ounce container whole ricotta cheese
      • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
      • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
      • 3 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped (for garnishing)
      • Optional Garnish: fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

      Instructions

      Cook the Italian Sausage

      Multi-task while prepping the sausage: Cook the ziti al dente, according to package directions.

      1. Place a small pot of cold water on the stovetop. Submerge sausage links in the cold water. Do not pierce the casings. Bring to a light boil over medium heat. The sausages will be 3/4 cooked. Remove them from the pot onto paper towels. Lightly pat them dry.
      2. Add olive oil to a small skillet over medium-low heat. Transfer the links to the pan. Frequently turn the sausages until they’re cooked and browned with an internal temperature of 160°F. Use a food thermometer to check for doneness.
      3. Transfer the sausages to a cutting board. Once they’re not too hot to handle, slice into 1/4-inch rounds.
      4. As you multi-task, the pasta should be done cooking. Drain noodles in a colander, then return to the pot.

      Prepare Marinara Sauce

      1. Heat olive oil in a large wide skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic. When the garlic sizzles, add the crushed tomatoes with all the liquid from the can. Stir. Pour one cup of water into the tomato can. Swirl it around to collect any tomato pieces and liquid left behind. Pour the water into the skillet. Stir well to incorporate.
      2. Add spices: salt, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine. Allow sauce to simmer for 15 minutes, or until thickened. The olive oil on the surface should develop a beautiful orange tint. Add 1/4 teaspoon sugar to the sauce. This secret ingredient helps offset the tomato acidity. Do a taste test. Adjust spices and sugar, as desired.

      Assemble Baked Ziti

      RECIPE PREP: Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9X13 baking dish, or 2 8X8 baking dishes.

      1. Add the sausage and 3/4 of the marina sauce to the pot of cooked pasta. Fold the ingredients together. Transfer half the baked ziti mixture to the baking dish.
      2. Using half the ricotta cheese, spoon it in dollops over the noodle mixture. Sprinkle half the mozzarella cheese on top. With a spatula, pat and spread the cheese into an even layer.
      3. Spread remaining ziti mixture on top. Spoon dollops of remaining ricotta over ziti. Do not spread. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Drizzle remaining marinara sauce over the cheese.
      4. Tent baking dish loosely with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 10 minutes more.

      Garnish the Dish

      • Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.
      • Garnish with chopped Italian parsley, and basil if desired.

      Notes

      • Best substitute for ziti pasta: Penne is the best swap out for ziti. But these pastas will also work: mostaccioli, rigatoni, or chifferi.
      • Best substitute for ricotta cheese: The best substitute is Requeson, which is Mexican-style Ricotta. Other swaps include cottage cheese, goat cheese, or mascarpone.
      • How to make this recipe meatier: Use 1.5 pounds of Italian sausage. When making this recipe for Dad, his special request is always the same: please add more meat!
      • How to make this recipe faster: Instead of homemade sauce, use a jar of store-bought marinara sauce or spaghetti sauce.
      • Healthy add-in idea: Add 2 cups of hand-torn fresh spinach. Mix the spinach into the pasta along with the sausage and marinara sauce.
      • Make-ahead instructions: This is the ideal make-ahead meal! After assembling baked ziti, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. To bake this dish, tent loosely with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil. Continue baking until heated through.
      • Freezer-friendly instructions: After assembling this dish, tightly cover it with 2-3 layers of foil. Freeze it unbaked for up to 3 weeks. Before baking, defrost it in the fridge for 24 hours. Bake according to make-ahead instructions.
      • Prep Time: 45 Minutes
      • Cook Time: 30 Minutes
      • Category: Pasta
      • Method: Stovetop and Oven
      • Cuisine: Italian
      Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

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      21 Comments

      1. This recipe is simply the best. Your photos are gorgeous and your step by step is simply amazing. I love your parsley printed towel so cool. Thank you for this easy recipe.






      2. This pasta meal sounds so comforting that I am going to give it a try for sure. And thank you: I have learned about a new type of Italian pasta:)






      3. My mouth started to water in the very beginning of the post lol This ziti is too good and looks absolutely amazing!






      4. This baked ziti was amazing! First time making it, but the final dish was delicious. My hubby loved it.






      5. My family enjoyed every bite of this baked ziti! It was full of flavor and so hearty and absolutely no fuss!






      6. This Baked ziti with ricotta and sausage is making me totally drool! No doubt that I am really craving for this right now. I want to try making this at home for my husband and son.