This is another one of those posts where the pictures do not give justice to how delicious the dish really is.
This is not your average baked ziti.
The sauce starts with ground italian sausage and ends with a generous sprinkling of fresh rosemary. And if that doesn’t sound good enough, rest assured that there’s plenty of mozzarella, parmesan and ricotta, as well. With whole wheat penne as the base, this was the perfect main dish to serve to our out-of-town guests the night before running the half-marathon this past weekend. And with a carbo-load like this, you might not even need those shot bloks you talked yourself into buying at the expo the day before the race.
Yield: 6-8 servings
Cook Time: 55 minutes
- 1 pound ziti pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
- Olive oil
- 1 pound bulk Italian sausage (1 lb of any ground meat would work)
- 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
- 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 large jar of marinara sauce (about 32 ounces)
- 1/2 pound of mozzarella cheese, grated
- 1 heaping cup of ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add about a tablespoon of salt for every 2 quarts of water. Add the pasta and boil, uncovered, until the pasta is al dente—edible but still a little firm. Drain the pasta through a colander. Toss with a little olive oil so the pasta does not stick together while you make the sauce.
Pour a tablespoon or so of olive oil into a large sauté pan on medium-high to heat. When the oil is hot, add the bulk sausage or ground meat. Do not crowd the pan (work in batches if needed). Break up any large chunks of sausage as it cooks. Brown well. Don’t stir that often or it will be more difficult for the meat to brown. If you are using ground beef or pork instead of sausage, add a little salt.
When the meat is mostly browned, add the garlic, rosemary or basil, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Cook 1 minute, then add the tomato sauce and stir well. Bring to a simmer.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13-inch casserole pan, then dot the surface with half the ricotta cheese (I used a dough scoop for this step). Ladle in some sauce with the pasta, mix it well and add the pasta into the casserole.
Pour the rest of the sauce over the pasta, dot the remaining ricotta cheese over the pasta, and sprinkle on top both the mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven until the top is nicely browned, about 20 minutes.
Source: adapted from Simply Recipes