Classic Baked Ziti is a mainstay of Sunday dinners, with the kind of rich, slow-cooked-tasting sauce that makes people linger at the table for hours. This Classic Baked Ziti takes just over an hour, and yet it has the same savory, meaty flavors that makes everyone lean back in their chairs as recipes with longer cooked times. With tender cooked pasta and deeply creamy ricotta, this dish does more than just delight. A slice of Classic Baked Ziti brings the evening to an incredible finish!

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound Italian sausage, sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 (3-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning blend
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 (16-ounce) box ziti
  • 1 (15-ounce) container ricotta
  • 1 cup Italian cheese blend
  • freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups mozzarella, shredded
  • parsley, optional, to taste, chopped, for garnish

Directions

Step 1 -In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the sausages until they are brown and crispy on the edges.

Step 2 -Add the onions to the skillet once the sausage has browned, and continue to sauté over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.

Step 3 -Add the tomato paste, the crushed tomatoes and their juices, the Italian seasoning, and the water to the skillet and stir to combine.

Step 4 -Place a lid on the skillet and allow it to come up to a medium simmer.

Step 5 -Once simmering, turn the heat down and allow it to continue simmering on low heat. Stir the sauce occasionally as it simmers.

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Step 6 -Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

Step 7 -Add the ziti and cook until al dente, according to the package directions.

Step 8 -Drain the ziti, then return it to the pot and add 1 cup of the sausage sauce, stirring to coat the cooked pasta in the sauce.

Step 9 -While the pasta and sauce are cooking, add the ricotta, the Italian cheese blend, and the cracked black pepper to a bowl, stirring to combine.

Step 10 -Move the oven rack to the middle.

Step 11 -Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Step 12 -Pour 1/2 of the ziti into a 9×13-inch baking dish.

Step 13 -Add 1/2 of the ricotta mixture on top of the ziti in small dollops.

Step 14 -Spoon 1/2 of the sausage sauce over the pasta and the ricotta. It’s okay if the ingredients don’t form a solid layer in the dish.

Step 15 -Repeat these layers with the remaining pasta, the remaining ricotta mixture, and the remaining sausage sauce.

Step 16 -Top with the shredded mozzarella.

Step 17 -Cover the baking dish with foil, making sure it’s slightly tented so that it doesn’t stick to the melted cheese.

Step 18 -Transfer the covered casserole to the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Step 19 -After baking for 20 minutes, remove the foil, and turn the oven on to broil. Keep the casserole on the middle rack, about 10-12 inches from the broiler.

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Step 20 -Broil until the cheese is slightly browned. about 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on the baked ziti as it broils so it doesn’t burn.

Step 21 -Remove the ziti from the oven, top with the chopped parsley, and serve.