Baked Ziti is a wonderful dish all its own. When done correctly, it is actually very different from lasagna. If you get good ingredients and follow this recipe, you will end up with a delicious and unique authentic Italian meal that tastes like nothing you've ever had before! A word about the ingredients: fresh mozzarella cheese is not the same thing as part-skim mozarella cheese. Use fresh mozarella in this recipe. Marzano tomatoes are a must for this recipe as well, but in a pinch, Progresso whole Italian tomatoes will do. Fresh herbs can be found in the produce section of most stores, but dried herbs can be substituted.
- 1 lb ziti pasta
- 1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese
- 3⁄4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1⁄2 lb sweet Italian sausage
- 1⁄2 lb hot Italian sausage
- 1⁄2 medium onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 28 ounces whole peeled san marzano tomatoes
- 6 ounces marzano tomato paste
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 sprig fresh basil
- Remove the sausage casings and crumble the sausage.
- Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil to a pan, and brown the sausage.
- Puree the tomatoes in a blender (not too much).
- Add onions and garlic to now-browned sausage. Cook for a few more minutes until transparent.
- Add your tomato puree to the sausage.
- Add thyme and basil to sauce.
- Add some salt and pepper to taste.
- Add a generous pinch of the pepper flakes.
- Stir this up, heat to near-boil, then let it simmer covered on low for 15 minutes.
- BUILDING THE DISH.
- Boil your ziti pasta to not quite al-dente. Don't overboil, pasta will soften while baking.
- Cut the mozarella, half of it into 1/2 inch cubes, the other half in as thin of slices as you can manage.
- Remove the herb sprigs from the sauce and discard.
- Add the can of tomato paste to your sauce to thicken it up and give it a lively red color and more intense flavor.
- Add the pasta, your sauce, the cubed mozarella and half the parmesan in a baking dish.
- Top with the sliced mozarella and the remainder of the parmesan.
- Bake for about 30 minutes until golden.
Splendid recipe, with true italian technique! I made this ziti dish during a mountain vacation with my family in Colorado. Everyone loved it and was going back for seconds. The dish is moderately spicy, so if you have any low-heat tolerant eaters you may want to cut back on the spice. The only thing I would change would be to put the basil in near the final stages of cooking the sauce, otherwise you may lose that delicious basil taste!
This is fantastic. My kids aren't big on lasagna because of the ricotta so this was a perfect alternative. I love the combination of sweet and hot sausage and the pepper flakes. After I started putting the recipe together I realized that my parm was not usable. No worries, I'm not sure we even missed it.
Will definitely make again
My family loved this recipe! I used generic tomatoes and it turned out wonderfully! My husband loved the spicy kick from the red peppers!