This Baked Ziti with Sausage is so comforting and delicious. My kids gobbled this up and I’m sure it will become a family favorite your house too!
I keep plugging along on my quest to bring you amazing and delicious recipes. This Baked Ziti with Sausage is not the fastest dinner on my website (that is probably my Baked Cod with Vegetables), but it might be one of the most comforting.
I think from now on when I make this, I will think of bringing a VERY hangry and tired five year old into my house at the end of a long day of school and setting a bowl of this in front of her (no time to even warm it up) and watching her devour it.
Perhaps that alone is the definitely of comfort food.
As I said, though not the fastest recipe on the block, this one has a major upside: You can make it ahead of time.
Should we dive in?
What You Need to Make Baked Ziti with Sausage
Though the ingredient list on this recipe may seem daunting, try to not let it intimidate you. The sausage and cheeses are all you need to buy fresh. Everything else can be stuff you keep in your pantry for whenever you are craving baked ziti with sausage.
- Ziti Pasta (Or Penne)
- Olive Oil
- Italian Sausage (I used Italian Turkey Sausage)
- Dried Parsley, Basil and Oregano (or Italian Seasoning – see the recipe notes)
- Spaghetti Sauce
- Tomato Sauce
- Ricotta Cheese (please use full fat, it’s worth it)
The Sauce is the Key
Since one of the primary flavors of this baked ziti recipe is spaghetti sauce, make sure that you use one that you truly love. Its just like using wine in cooking. The flavor intensifies, so you have to absolutely love it.
When You Can’t Find Ziti Noodles
You guys. I was hell bent on making you a great baked ziti recipe. And then I couldn’t find ziti noodles ANYWHERE.
I almost ordered some online.
I did find them at a grocery store eventually, but only so I could have that perfect baked ziti photo. If you can’t find them, don’t go to 18 stores. Just use penne noodles. And move on with your life.
Baked Ziti with Ricotta or Cottage Cheese
There are plenty of people who use cottage cheese as a swap out for ricotta. Yours truly is not one of them. Growing up eating my grandmother’s traditional Italian food, I just can’t. The flavor is really different and the consistency and the way they melt is different as well.
That said, I’m a whatever floats your boat person. If cottage cheese as a substitution for ricotta in this baked ziti with sausager sounds good to you, go for it.
A Note About Cheese
I said it recently in my Cheesy Potatoes recipe, there is such a huge difference when it comes to block cheese and pre shredded cheese. The block cheese just melts so much faster. If you want to make this recipe easier, that is not a short cut I would take. I personally would vote for you to make it ahead of time instead.
How to Make Ahead & Freeze Baked Ziti
This is a great recipe because you can make it ahead and pop it in the oven, or you can wrap it up and put it in the refrigerator for tomorrow night.
Want to freeze it? Great! After you put that final layer of cheese on it (before you put it in the oven), wrap it very well with foil. Wrapping with two layers will keep it really safe from freezer burn.
How to Bake Frozen Baked Ziti
When you are ready to eat this, you can take it out of the freezer the day before and put it in the refrigerator to thaw.
Another great option is to make it in an aluminum container and freeze it in that. That way you can put it right into the oven from the freezer without worrying about your container cracking from a drastic change in heat. Bake frozen baked ziti at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until the middle of the dish is melty and warm.
Making Baked Ziti Gluten Free
There was a very very brief time in our life when we went gluten free for a number of reasons that no longer apply. Anyway! During that time we tried several gluten free noodles and there are a LOT that are great options on the market. This baked ziti recipe is a great dish to make gluten free because you simply need to swap out traditional noodles for gluten free noodles.
That said, make sure you read your labels carefully on the other ingredients.
Storing and Reheating Left Overs
This baked ziti with sausage makes a TON, so it is possible you will have left overs. (Though no judgment if you don’t.) In that case, make sure they are stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for no longer than four days.
To reheat your left overs, put them in a shallow oven safe container. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Alternatively, place in a microwave safe container, make a hole in the middle of your serving of baked ziti, and cover. Microwave at half power for about 2 minutes, then stir, recover and add additional time as needed.
Once you reheat left overs, toss any remaining food that you do not eat. Do not put it back in the refrigerator and warm it up again.
Other Amazing Baked Pasta Dishes
Since baked pasta is the ultimate in comfort food, you are going to want to try these other dishes too:
- Marsala Chicken Noodle Casserole: This has all the great flavors of Chicken Marsala but in a baked noodle casserole, and it is 100% amazing.
- Chicken Noodle Casserole: When you just need a classic recipe, this one should be your go to.
- Taco Stuffed Shells: These are a taco spin on stuffed shells and make such a great weeknight dinner!
If you make these or any of my other recipes please leave me a comment and let me know. It makes my day to hear you loved something I made.
- 1 pound ziti pasta (or penne pasta)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 pound Italian sausage (casings removed) I used turkey sausage
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley (see note)
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- crushed red pepper flakes
- 24 ounces spaghetti sauce store bought or homemade
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 8 ounces shredded mozzarella shredded
- 1 cup full fat ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- Boil water to cook your ziti. Once at a roaring boil, pour in the dry pasta and add a teaspoon of kosher salt. No need to measure the salt, just eye ball it. Set the time for 2 minutes less than the instructions on the package say.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant, being careful not to let it burn.
- Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up. Season with parsley, oregano, basil, onion powder, salt, and red pepper flakes (if using – I use about 1/4 teaspoon). Cook until the sausage is cooked through and then remove from the heat.
- Drain the pasta when done and return to the pot you cooked it in. Add in the cooked meat with the spices and pan drippings. Add in the tomato sauce and half of the spaghetti sauce.
- Pour half of the pasta mixture into the bottom of the pan. Add the ricotta cheese on top, in small scoops over the pasta. Then add 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese.
- Add the remaining pasta. Then top with the remaining spaghetti sauce. Top with the remaining parmesan cheese and the remaining mozarealla cheese.
- Bake, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling.
Wow, it looks like a colorful pizza with soft ziti on the inside and a greasy cheese on the outside. I bet my son will gobble this dish too.
Lisa Longley says
Ooo, you are so right, it totally does. Oh the ideas that gives me, lololol!
SHIRLEY MYERS says
This looks really good. What is the difference between tomatoe sauce and spagetti sauce?
Lisa Longley says
Tomato sauce is just tomatoes. Spaghetti sauce is a prepared recipe with ingredients that has been cooked and infused with flavor. Does that answer your question? If not, let me know.
This is delicious! I use penne pasta and it’s very nice. Since I am cooking for only my husband and I, I freeze half for a later dinner. Thanks Lisa.
Lisa Longley says
I’m so happy you liked it Sandra!
Debbie Sheets says
Do you bake before you freeze?
Lisa Longley says
Nope! Freeze it and then when you are ready to bake you can put it right in a preheated oven (350 degrees) and bake it uncovered for 45 minutes.
It was really tasty. Noticed that the amount of mozzarella listed doesn’t allow for any on top (8 oz. and 1 cup is required in the middle). Also I found that the edges were slightly overdone so I would start with foil and then take that off towards the end. Will definitely make it again and since there are just two of us might even just do a half portion. Yummoh!
Great pasta dish!
Lisa Longley says
I’m so glad you liked it, Susan!
Thank you Lisa for the recipes. Will definitely try some of your pasta dishes when I get back from vacation. Will let you know when I try it. My kids will love it.
Lisa Longley says
I hope you love them all!