Italian Baked Ziti made with pasta, lots of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, basil, and sausage in a creamy sauce.

If you’re looking for a meal to take to someone who had a baby or to a meal to make for company, this Baked Ziti is delicious! This Baked Ziti can be made with sausage or without meat.

Baked Ziti

BAKED ZITI

I realize there’s a very small window here before the New Year’s diets start to share a cheesy pasta casserole liked this Baked Ziti.

This is the meal I make for company, bring into someone who just had a baby, or make for my family to make them happy. It’s that good.

I’ve made it six times this months for different reasons and every time it gets rave reviews.

Baked Ziti

There are a couple of things that make this Baked Ziti different than the others. In fact, I already have an easy baked ziti on my blog. That Baked Ziti entirely different. It has layers of sour cream. Sounds weird but it works.

WHAT MAKES THIS BAKED ZITI SPECIAL

  • This Baked Ziti has sweet Italian sausage in it. You can leave it out if you want for a vegetarian version but I like the flavor it adds.
  • Not only does it have a marinara sauce but we make a quick alfredo with cornstarch and cream to give it that extra level of richness.
  • Cottage cheese is the secret ingredient. I despise cottage cheese by itself. It usually makes me gag but cottage cheese in pastas (and baked egg recipes) adds this invisible creaminess because it melts into the sauce.
  • It might seem strange to add eggs into a pasta dish. Not at all. It binds everything together.

Baked Ziti

CAN I USE A DIFFERENT PASTA OTHER THAN ZITI?

Yes. Any medium shaped pasta will do. Rigatoni, Penne, Farfalle…are all good substitutes. I wouldn’t do a long pasta like spaghetti or linguine.

Baked Ziti

HOW TO MAKE BAKED ZITI

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  The next two steps can be done at the same time (cooking the sausage in one pan and the pasta in another).

  2. In a skillet, brown sausage. Drain and cool.

  3. Bring a large pot of water to boiling. Add about 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook pasta about 5 minutes (it will continue to cook in the oven). Drain in a colander.

  4. While pasta and sausage are cooking, in a large bowl, add 1 cup of the marinara sauce, the cottage cheese, 3/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1 cup Parmesan cheese (save 1/4 cup for the top), eggs, and basil. Add the sausage when it is done cooking.

  5. In the same pot as the pasta or sausage (whichever one is done being used first), add the heavy cream and cornstarch and whisk together. Cook over medium heat until thickened about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir into cottage cheese mixture.

  6. Add the pasta to the cottage cheese mixture and mix well. Pour into a 9×13 baking dish. Spread remaining marinara sauce on top. Top with remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

  7. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with more basil and serve.

FREEZING INSTRUCTIONS:

Freeze for up to a month in a tightly sealed dish. Thaw in the refrigerator a day before cooking. Bake according to instructions.

If you liked this Baked Ziti, you’ll like these Italian recipes:

Italian Sausage and Peppers

Baked Spaghetti

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

Baked Ziti
Print
5 from 1 vote

Baked Ziti

Italian baked Ziti made with pasta, lots of cheese, basil, and sausage in a creamy sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1 lb ziti (rigatoni or penne can also be used)
  • 1 (24-26 ounce) jar marinara sauce (I like Rao's brand)
  • 16 ounces cottage cheese (1% fat)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil (more for the top)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  The next two steps can be done at the same time (cooking the sausage in one pan and the pasta in another).

  2. In a skillet, brown sausage. Drain and cool. 

  3. Bring a large pot of water to boiling. Add about 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook pasta about 5 minutes (it will continue to cook in the oven). Drain in a colander. 

  4. While pasta and sausage are cooking, in a large bowl, add 1 cup of the marinara sauce, the cottage cheese, 3/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1 cup Parmesan cheese (save 1/4 cup for the top), eggs, and basil. Add the sausage when it is done cooking. 

  5. In the same pot as the pasta or sausage (whichever pan is done being used first), add the heavy cream and cornstarch and whisk together. Cook over medium heat until thickened about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir into cottage cheese mixture.

  6. Add the pasta to the cottage cheese mixture and mix well. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish. Spread remaining marinara sauce on top. Top with remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

  7. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with more basil and serve.

Recipe Notes

If you like garlic, you can add a couple of cloves at the end of cooking the sausage. My marinara has a lot of garlic in it so I don't always add more.

FREEZING INSTRUCTIONS:

Freeze for up to a month in a tightly sealed dish. Thaw in the refrigerator a day before cooking. Bake according to instructions. 

Source: adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Substituted marinara sauce for tomatoes and ingredients for sauce, added sausage, increased cornstarch, used shredded mozzarella instead of cubed, reduced Parmesan.

 

Baked Ziti