When it comes to Italian night at our house, Baked Ziti with Sausage is my husband’s most requested recipe. This is the best baked baked ziti I’ve had… hands down!
When it comes to pasta bakes, I’m a lasagna girl and Mike likes short pasta with meat and cheese. I like all the layers, he doesn’t care – just give him the food. But this easy baked ziti is the recipe that makes both our mouths water. Simple ingredients baked until bubbly with melted cheese perfection on top. Pass me a plate!
What is baked ziti
Baked ziti is a casserole-style pasta bake. It’s made with ziti pasta, ground meat, tomato sauce, a variety of cheeses, and prepared al forno. (AKA baked in the oven… but the Italian version sounds fancier.)
Here’s the big secret to my baked ziti recipe…
I swap from baked ziti with ricotta for baked ziti with cottage cheese. Mike’s not a fan of ricotta and Shamrock Farms cottage cheese is an awesome substitution to help pack in some more protein into our dinners. The cottage cheese also leaves this whole dish tasting lighter, even with all that cheese!
I’ve been a Shamrock Farms fan for years. The kids and I have even been out to their dairy farm for a tour. They talk about it every time I go shopping and bring home a container with Roxie and a green lid. Even with a new container look, it’s still the same Shamrock Farms cottage cheese and sour cream we’ve always loved.
Heck, once of my favorite snacks is dipping corn chips in cottage cheese. It’s SO freaking good, you guys!
Shamrock Farms cottage cheese is locally handcrafted, low in calories and carbs, with no sugar added. Shamrock Farms starts with pure, fresh milk with lots of bone-building calcium and protein. I call that a mom win. Especially with two crazy boys running around the house all day.
Be sure to keep a lookout for the green lid and Roxie in your grocery store’s dairy section. And because we all love saving money, grab a coupon for $1 off any two Shamrock products at Shamrockfarms.net while you’re at it!
Ingredients for Baked Ziti
- Ziti pasta
- Italian sausage
- Yellow onion
- Marinara sauce
- Shamrock Farms cottage cheese – original or low-fat variety
- Mozzarella cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Italian seasoning
- Dried oregano
- Salt & pepper
- Fresh basil
For those that want their baked ziti with no meat, you can totally leave the sausage out. I’ve done this when my step-dad makes sausages and peppers as our main course. Then we serve this the pasta as our side dish.
Can I use penne instead of ziti?
You sure can! Any short pasta will work for this pasta bake. Of course, it’s not “baked ziti” then, but who cares! Call it baked penne or baked rigatoni. There’s 100% nothing wrong with that. This recipe will still taste amazing!
How to Make Baked Ziti
I do the prep and initial cooking all at the same time to cut down on overall prep time. But if you’re not the best multitasker, that’s okay. Start the sausage, then the pasta, and make the filling once those are cooked. No biggie.
- Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Next, place a large pot of water over high heat and bring it to a boil. Be sure to generously season the water with salt. Once the water is boiling, add the ziti and cook it until it’s al dente. Use the pasta package to determine your cooking time. Be sure to stir the pasta every once and a while so it doesn’t stick together.
- While the pasta is cooking, start on the meat sauce. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Then, add the sausage and let it brown while you break it up into small-ish pieces.
- When the sausage is mostly cooked, add in the onions and garlic. Cook everything until the sausage is no longer pink and the onions have softened up. Then you can add the marinara to the sausage, turn the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Now you’re ready to make the filling. To do this, add the cottage cheese, 1 cup of mozzarella, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, both eggs, and all the seasonings to a medium mixing bowl. Stir it all together until the eggs and seasonings are evenly incorporated.
Tip: If you want an extra creamy filling, add 1/4 cup of sour cream too. You don’t have to, but OMG you’re going to love it!
Everything is ready to go and now you’re going to assemble the casserole!
- Spread 1/3 of the sauce all over the bottom of a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish. Pour 1/2 of the pasta over the sauce and spread it out into an even layer.
- Then, add ALL of the cheese filling over the pasta and spread it out so the pasta is covered. Add another 1/3 of the sauce over the cheese so it’s all over the top.
- After that, pour the rest of the pasta into the dish and spread. (See a theme here?!) Top the pasta with the remaining meat sauce. Don’t worry if it’s not all covered.
- Next, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese over the pasta bake. Then you just cover your baking dish loosely with foil and pop it in the oven.
- You’ll want to bake the pasta for 20 minutes covered. When time is up, carefully take off the foil before baking for another 20 minutes. Your ziti is done when the cheese on top is melted and the pasta is bubbling.
Tip: You can get that golden brown bubbled cheese on top by turning your oven to broil on HIGH for a few minutes to finish things off.
- All that’s left to do now is take your ziti out of the oven and sprinkle a little fresh basil over the top.
I like the layering, but if you need dinner ASAP I’ve got you. Once the pasta is drained, return it to the cooking pot. Pour in the sauce and cheese mixture, and mix everything together. Spread out the pasta in your baking dish and top with cheese. Boom.
How long to cook baked ziti
Baked ziti pasta takes about 40 minutes in the oven once all the ingredients are cooked and prepped.
Do you cover ziti when baking?
Yep! By having covered and uncovered cooking times the pasta won’t dry out and the cheese gets nice and melty.
Be warned, the foil may try to stick to the cheese when you take it off. Keep the foil loosely secured over the top of your baking dish when wrapping to help.
What goes with baked ziti?
Can you freeze baked ziti?
Yes. You can totally make a double batch and freeze half for later.
Wrap the pasta in its dish with foil. Pop it in the freezer for up to one month. When you’re ready to eat, defrost the pan in your fridge overnight. Then bake as directed.
I put the covered pan in the oven as it comes up to temp to help make sure everything is nice and hot once the pasta is done.
Get your pasta fix!
- Sun-Dried Tomato & Balsamic Shrimp Pasta
- Cheesy Chicken Stuffed Shells
- Easy Shrimp Scampi
- Cajun Chicken Pasta
- Fettuccine with Alfredo Sauce
Baked Ziti with Sausage
- 1 pound ziti pasta (or other short pasta)
- 1 pound mild Italian sausage
- 1/2 yellow onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 24 ounces marinara sauce
- 16 ounces Shamrock Farms cottage cheese
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup Shamrock Farms sour cream (optional)
- Fresh basil chiffonade or chopped
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and generously season water with salt. Add pasta to water and boil until al dente according to package directions. Drain pasta.
- While pasta is cooking, place a large skillet over medium heat. Add Italian sausage and cook until mostly browned, about 4 minutes, being sure to break up sausage as it cooks.
- Add onion and garlic to the skillet. Continue to cook, stirring often, until sausage is no longer pink and onions have softened. Pour marinara sauce into the skillet, stir everything together, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
- To a medium mixing bowl, add Shamrock Farms cottage cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, eggs, Italian seasoning, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir everything together until the eggs and spices are evenly combined. If you like, add in Shamrock Farms sour cream for an extra creamy filling!
- Spread ⅓ of the meat sauce over the bottom of a 9x13 deep-sided baking dish. Add ½ of pasta over the sauce and spread out around the dish. Add all of the cottage cheese mixture over pasta and spread to cover. Top cheese with ⅓ of pasta sauce. Add remaining pasta on top, and then spread the rest of the sauce over pasta.
- Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup mozzarella and ½ cup Parmesan over the pasta bake.
- Cover loosely with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes, until your pasta bake is bubbling and the cheese is all melted.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle fresh basil over the top. Serve warm.
- If you like heat, you are welcome to use spicy Italian sausage instead.
- You can save on prep time by adding the pasta back to its pot. Pour in the sauce and cheese mixture, and then stir it all together. Spread out the pasta in your baking dish, top with cheese, and bake.