In my opinion, there is no better comfort food than some sort of baked pasta, whether it be lasagna, manicotti, or baked ziti. Baked ziti is the easiest of these to make, as it simply requires throwing ingredients together and baking it. This recipe is a variation of my grandma’s famous ziti, made with spicy Italian sausage and 4 different kinds of cheese. It is one of my favorite dinners, and its even better the next day as leftovers. Serve it alongside a nice tossed salad and a loaf of crusty bread, and you have yourself a hearty, wholesome meal.
Yields: 9-12 servings
16 oz. whole milk or 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 lb. ziti or other tube pasta
1 lb ground beef or Italian sausage
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
1 tsp. sugar
8 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
8 oz. provolone cheese, sliced
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Whisk the cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup of Parmesan together in a medium bowl and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook the ziti until al dente, about 5-7 minutes. Drain the pasta and leave in colander.
Meanwhile, cook the sausage until browned. Add in the onion and garlic and continue to cook until the onion is softened and the sausage is completely browned. Add the tomato sauce and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and the sugar, and season with salt and pepper.
In the empty stockpot, add cottage cheese mixture, all of the mozzarella and 2 cups of sauce. Stir to combine, then transfer half of the pasta to a 9×13 baking dish. Layer the pasta with the sliced provolone, then top with the remaining pasta, and finally, the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese over the top. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil from the pan and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.
*Freezer Friendly Tip* – Freeze individual sized portions in an oven safe dish, defrost, then bake as directed.
Source: A Stick a Fork In It original