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Baked Ziti with Spicy Italian Sausage: A Leftover Delight

There's something undeniably comforting about a dish of baked ziti, especially when it's enhanced with the bold flavors of spicy Italian sausage. This recipe delivers a hearty and satisfying meal, perfect for those chilly evenings or when you need a touch of home-cooked warmth.



Sausage Baked Ziti


Ingredients:

  • Pasta and Meat:

    • 1 lb ziti pasta

    • 1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casing removed


  • Sauce and Cheese:

    • 2 cups marinara sauce

    • 1 cup ricotta cheese

    • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

    • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  • Seasonings and Herbs:

    • 1 onion, finely chopped

    • 2 garlic cloves, minced

    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

    • 1 teaspoon dried basil

    • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • Garnish (optional):

    • Fresh basil leaves

    • Red pepper flakes


Instructions:

  1. Preheat and Prep: Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with a bit of olive oil.

  2. Cook the Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add ziti and cook until just shy of al dente (about 7 minutes). Drain and set aside.

  3. Brown the Sausage: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the spicy Italian sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned and cooked through. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside.

  4. Sauté Aromatics: In the same skillet, add onion and garlic. Sauté until the onion is translucent. Stir in the marinara sauce, oregano, and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

  5. Combine Pasta and Sauce: Toss the cooked ziti with the marinara sauce, ensuring each piece is well coated.

  6. Layering: Spread half of the sauced ziti in the prepared baking dish. Dot with half of the ricotta cheese, then sprinkle half of the cooked sausage over it. Add half of the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients.

  7. Bake: Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly golden.

  8. Garnish and Serve: Let the baked ziti rest for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for an extra kick.

Tips:

  • Cheese Variations: Feel free to experiment with different cheeses like provolone or fontina for a unique twist.

  • Make-Ahead: This dish can be assembled ahead and refrigerated. Just add a few extra minutes to the baking time if it's coming straight from the fridge.

  • Freezer-Friendly: Baked ziti freezes well. Cool completely, then cover tightly and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in the oven.

Enjoy this delicious baked ziti with a side salad and crusty bread for a complete, soul-warming meal!

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