Hi! It’s been awhile, been two weeks since you’ve last heard from me. Don’t fret. I am here now and I have something for you. A baked ziti so utterly delicious you’ll easily forgive me for being away so long.
Baked pasta casseroles are incredibly easy to prepare and make the ultimate comfort food. Layers of firm to bite noodles, meaty sauce and gooey cheese, what’s not to love? And this baked ziti. My, oh, my. As if crumbled Italian sausage, red wine, chunky tomatoes, creamy cheeses were not enough, I added loads of fresh mushrooms and sweet peppers for extra nom nom.
- 1 pound uncooked ziti
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups fresh mozzarella cheese , shredded
- 1 egg , beaten
- 2 pounds Italian sausage , crumbled
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion , peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic , peeled and minced
- 6 sweet peppers , seeded and minced
- 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms , minced
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 (26 ounces) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 (26 ounces each) can marinara sauce
- 1 (6 ounces) can tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon sugar
In a pot over medium heat, heat about 4 quarts water to a boil. Add ziti and cook for about 6 to 7 minutes or until cooked a little under al dente. Drain from liquid and rinse under cold running water.
In a bowl, combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Add egg and gently stir without over mixing. Add noodles and 3/4 of the meat sauce. Gently toss together.
In a large casserole, transfer pasta mixture and slightly pat down. Spoon and distribute remaining 1/4 of the meat mixture on top of pasta. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese on top of meat mixture.
Bake in a 375 oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through and top is golden and bubbly. Remove from oven and let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add Italian sausage and cook, stirring and breaking apart with back of spoon, until lightly browned and releases fat. With a slotted spoon, remove meat from pan and set aside. Drain off grease.
In the skillet, heat olive oil. Add onions, garlic, sweet peppers and mushrooms and cook until limp. Add browned sausage. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 to 3 minutes or until reduced.
Add crushed tomatoes, marinara sauce and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Add Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool.