This classic baked ziti recipe is so insanely delicious! So meaty, extra cheesy with three different kinds of cheeses, and super easy to make. This one is most certainly an epic weeknight dinner that everyone will love- so dang flavorful! Such a great recipe that you can make ahead for all occasions and freezer-friendly as well. Pair alongside a salad and/or garlic bread for ultimate dinner greatness!
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 pounds ground Italian sausage, hot or mild
- 1 medium-sized yellow onion, finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
For the baked ziti
- 1 pound ziti pasta
- 15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
- 16 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese, freshly shredded and divided
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
- 1/4 cup basil chiffonade, divided- see note below
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly spray or grease a 9×13 inch baking dish and set aside.
- Using a large deep skillet or dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat.
- Once the mixture is sizzling, add in the ground sausage. Use a wooden utensil to break up the sausage and cook until the sausage is browned and lightly crispy, about 5-7 minutes. Then use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked sausage to a clean bowl and set it aside.
- Add the chopped onion into the same pan and stir together. Sauté the onion until tender and translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Then add in the minced garlic and continue stirring the mixture until the garlic is fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add in the tomato paste and brown sugar and stir together to fully combine. Then pour in the crushed tomatoes with all of the liquid as well as the salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, and garlic powder. Stir everything together to combine.
- Add the reserved cooked sausage back into the same pot and stir to bring the sauce together. Reduce the heat to low and cook the sauce to a nice simmer, about 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, while the sauce is simmering- on a separate burner, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to your package directions, al dente.
- Reserve 1/3 cup of the starchy pasta water, set aside, and then drain the pasta. Add the cooked pasta into the same pot with the meat sauce along with the 1/3 cup of pasta water. Stir everything together to fully combine and then remove the pot from the heat.
- To assemble the baked ziti: Spoon half of the pasta into the prepared baking dish in an even layer. Then dollop the ricotta cheese directly on top of the pasta in different sections. Next, sprinkle half of the shredded mozzarella cheese over the ricotta cheese along with a sprinkling of 2 tablespoons of the grated parmesan cheese. Then top with 2 tablespoons (half) of the basil chiffonade. Spoon the remaining pasta directly on top in an even layer and then sprinkle on remaining half of the mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese.
- Bake the pasta for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
- Allow the baked ziti to cool in the baking dish for 10 minutes. Then garnish with remaining basil chiffonade and serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Please read the blog post in its entirety for more tips + tricks.
- Basil chiffonade: Place fresh basil leaves directly on top of each other in a stack. Then, from the bottom, roll up the leaves together into a tight log. Use a sharp knife to cut the leaves crosswise into thin strips.
Keywords: olive oil, butter, sausage, onions, garlic, tomato paste, brown sugar, tomatoes, pasta, ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, basil