Make ahead recipe: Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage

October 6, 2014

Make-ahead recipe: Baked Ziti with Sausage | One Hungry Mama

It’s a funny thing being obsessed with cookbooks, but not often cooking from them. I guess, for me, cookbooks are inspiration: I look through them less for recipes and more for new flavor combinations and novel ways to approach cooking. Not that recipes don’t matter. They are the point of a cookbook, after all, and I can tell if one is good just by looking at it.

Every once and a while, though, the recipes in a cookbook draw me in. I know that I can make something similar without the recipe, but I’m moved to follow it exactly. This happened with Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sam Tamimi, and more recently with the The Make-Ahead Cook from America’s Test Kitchen.

Mostly I love The Make-Ahead Cook because of all of the super helpful info and techniques for making delicious food ahead of time. I mean, can you think of a more useful approach for a family cook? But the recipes are also wonderfully simple.

Very simple recipes scare me sometimes, even when they come from trusted sources. They too often sacrifice depth of flavor and—for lack of a better way to put it—oomph for ease. Call me selfish, but I want it all, and the cooks at America’s Test Kitchen are great at giving it to me.

I knew that I had to make this baked ziti the minute I saw the recipe. Using sausage to add fat and spice—in other words, to add big flavor—makes it possible to keep the rest of the recipe pared down. Notice that there are no spices other than some fresh basil. You don’t even cook the sauce down a ton and, still, this is delectable. Plus, look it! My photo isn’t taken by a professional photographer and it still it looks amazing.

The best part of this recipe is that, of course, you can make it ahead of time. I’ve included notes from the cookbook that will help you do that. Give it a try, along with the Quinoa, Black Bean, and Mango Salad with Lime Vinaigrette that I also shared from the cookbook and, if you like them both, run out to get this book. It’s so worth it!

Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage
From The Make-Ahead Cook by America’s Test Kitchen
(Can be shared with kids 10+ mos)*
Serves 6 to 8

1 pound ziti or other short, tubular pasta
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
8 ounces (1 cup) whole-milk or part-skim ricotta cheese

TO FINISH AND SERVE
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

TO PREP
1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in a large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking water, then drain pasta. Rinse pasta with cold water and drain again, leaving pasta slightly wet; leave in colander.

2. Dry now-empty pot, add 1 tablespoon oil, and return to medium-high heat until shimmering. Add sausage and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce, bring to simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, 30 to 45 minutes.

3. Stir reserved cooking water, pasta, mozzarella, and basil into cooled sauce; transfer to 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Combine ricotta, remaining 3 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in bowl; cover.

TO STORE
4. Wrap dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate ziti and ricotta separately for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

TO FINISH AND SERVE
5. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Unwrap dish and cover tightly with greased aluminum foil. Bake casserole until beginning to bubble around edges, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and dollop rounded tablespoons of ricotta mixture evenly over top. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan and bake, uncovered, until casserole is hot throughout and cheese is melted and begins to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cook for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and serve.

*Note: While there is nothing in this that is unsafe for even your littlest eaters, I recommend it starting at 8 months since it’s low on veggies and high on acidic tomato sauce and dairy. If you’d like to share this with your beginner eater, consider pureeing a small scoop of pasta with baby’s favorite veggie—sweet potato, peas, spinach, and broccoli will all go really nicely! No matter how old your eater, be sure to puree, mash, or cut pasta and meat into an age appropriate texture.

2 Responses

  1. Jen says:

    I am salivating over this recipe but the part about separating Ziti and ricotta is confusing me. Basically I am having a dinner party but have to work all afternoon. Can you clarify efrigerate ziti and ricotta separately for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours” Thanks!

  2. One Hungry Mama says:

    Hi, Jen. I’m sorry that I didn’t get this sooner. Hopefully there is still time if you’re prepping tonight for a dinner party tomorrow or the next day? Unlike a traditional baked ziti, the ricotta isn’t mixed in this throughout. Rather, it’s dolloped over the top partway through baking (see the last set of directions). Then, when you serve, you can mix it in or at least make sure that everyone gets a dollop to mix in on their own. Does this help? Hope so!

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