The best way to satisfy all of your comfort food cravings: Baked Ziti with Sausage.
With a homemade (and healthy veggie filled!) meat sauce, with creamy layers of sour cream and plenty of cheese, this pasta casserole is one of those meals you’ll want to make again and again! It’s delicious fresh, but easy to prep ahead and reheat, too – it also freezes really well. Easy comfort food at its best!
There are days you barely have the headspace to spend five minutes in the kitchen… And those are the days you make a quick one pot Italian sausage pasta.
And then there’s the days you feel like something more… Something with bubbly layers of cheese. Something you’ll spend a little time in the kitchen for, listening to the postmodern version of Take Me to Church over and over again. And that’s when you make Baked Ziti with Sausage.
This recipe is near and dear to my heart, because it was about the worst food craving I had when I was pregnant with Petite Madame No 1. Cheesy, carby, tomato-y layers of goodness.
Needless to say, I was a tearful mess the one Sunday my cravings hit and we didn’t have a single ingredient to make anything even remotely resembling a pasta bake in the house. You might call it poor planning. I called it a disaster, and that’s exactly what it was. Ask my husband, he’ll confirm.
I’m not usually one to play the damsel in distress (I lied, I always am). But I really wish I would have had someone knock on the door with a dish of this baked ziti back then.
No, it’s not the easiest, throw-together dinner. But no, it’s also not the hardest. And as a bonus, it’s easy to double the recipe and freeze one pan for later.
The extra effort is really, excruciatingly worth it. You are not in a million years going to get anything close to the depth of flavors going on here if you’re using jarred sauce. Browning the sausage, sautéing plenty of vegetables, simmering the sauce… Not only will it make you feel like the Mamma of a big family, it will also result in cleared plates in the blink of an eye.
Yes. That is, in fact, how good this is.
And seriously. That Take Me to Church song. Try it. It suits this dish. Deep. Soulful. Warm.
Oh and one more thing? Pour yourself a glass of red before you start cooking. You deserve it.
Baked Ziti with Sausage FAQ:
Can I make Baked Ziti with Rigatoni?
If that’s what you have on hand, absolutely! If you have different short pasta tubes with a smooth surface, I’d go for these. But if you only have Rigatoni and need your pasta casserole fix stat, they’ll work.
Can I make Baked Ziti without sausage?
Yes, it’s just what I personally like best. You can use ground beef or pork, or you can make a meatless dish by using chopped mushrooms in place of the sausage.
Can I make Baked Ziti and freeze it?
Absolutely! Simply assemble the casserole but do not bake it. Make sure it’s fully chilled before tightly covering with either a lid or a layer of clingfilm and two layers of aluminium foil. Label and freeze for up to two months.
Can you freeze leftover Baked Ziti?
If you have leftovers that are already baked, you can still freeze them for 1-2 months, wrapped carefully in foil. They might end up a bit dry after reheating but still absolutely delicious.
Can you cook pasta bake from frozen?
Yes, pasta bake can go into the oven from frozen. It’s preferred to keep it covered with aluminium foil. Please make sure to remove any clingfilm before baking and add about 20-30 minutes to the total cooking time.
Can you make Baked Ziti the night before?
Yes. Same as with freezing, assemble the casserole fully, but do not bake it. Cover and keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
How long do you cook Baked Ziti that was refrigerated?
You can bake it straight from the fridge, adding about 10-15 minutes to the total baking time.
Watch how to make it:
Get the printable baked ziti with sausage recipe:
For the pasta:
- 16 ounces ziti, cooked, drained (reserve 1/43 cup cooking water!) and cooled
For the tomato sauce:
- 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large carrot, finely diced
- 1 stick celery, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 26 ounces tomato sauce
- Salt + pepper, to taste
For the cream sauce:
- 1/2 cup softened cream cheese
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt OR sour cream
- Salt + pepper, to taste
- 2-4 tablespoons reserved cooking water from the pasta
For the cheese:
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
Make the tomato sauce:
- Brown the sausage: Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the crumbled sausage meat and cook until browned.
- Sauté the vegetables: Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery to the sausage in the skillet. Cook until they're starting to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Cook the sauce: Stir the tomato paste and Italian seasoning into the sausage mix. Add the tomato sauce and simmer on low heat until thickened, about 10 minutes.
Make the cream sauce:
- In a medium bowl, stir together all ingredients for the cream sauce. Start with 2 tablespoons pasta cooking water and add the extra spoonfuls as needed to make a thick, smooth sauce.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread a spoonful of the meat sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 inch casserole dish.
Assemble the casserole:
- Layer 1: Add half of the pasta.
- Layer 2: Top with 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella.
- Layer 3: Spread all of the cream sauce on top.
- Layer 4: Top with 1/2 of the meat sauce.
- Layer 5: Add the remaining half of the pasta.
- Layer 6: Sprinkle with 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella.
- Layer 7: Top with the remaining meat sauce.
- Layer 8: Sprinkle with parmesan and the remaining mozzarella.
Bake the casserole:
- Bake the casserole for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheeses are melted and the casserole is bubbly. Serve hot.
Nutrition (this is an estimate)
If you try this baked ziti, please leave me a comment and star rating below – I always love to hear what you think!