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Baked Ziti with Sausage

5 stars based on 105 votes

Sausage Baked Ziti

People often say to my kids, “You must love having a mom who cooks all the time.” The kids, of course, throw me right under the bus and explain that it’s not as great as it seems. “We usually eat the same dinner for, like, five nights in a row – and when she’s testing desserts, we eat a lot of frozen pizza.” It’s true, I test the same recipes night after night and they have to eat what I make, whether it’s Brussels sprouts, baked ziti, or banana bread. But I can tell you that when I was testing this sausage baked ziti, absolutely no one complained: it’s a MAJOR family pleaser. Loaded with Italian sausage, which packs a ton of flavor, it’s similar to meat lasagna but without the fuss; easy enough for a weeknight but also special enough for a weekend family dinner; and it also makes a great prep-ahead potluck dish. While the baked ziti is in the oven, throw together a big Italian salad, warm some bread, open a bottle of red — and a comforting, make-everyone-happy dinner is served.

how to make baked ziti

Before we get to the recipe, a few words about the ingredients. Ricotta cheese is a traditional addition to baked ziti, but I leave it out because it has a tendency to get dry and grainy when baked. I use heavy cream to add richness instead. As for the mozzarella, I recommend buying whole milk mozzarella (the kind in plastic-wrapped bricks sold in the dairy case) and shredding it yourself. It has a somewhat rubbery texture that’s easy to shred and melts beautifully. Pre-shredded mozzarella is tossed with anti-caking agents, so it doesn’t melt as nicely. And fresh mozzarella is best suited for salads, as it doesn’t melt well. Finally, many grocers sell bulk Italian sausage, which is simply ground sausage without the casings. If you can’t find it, you can ask your butcher to take the meat out of the casings or do it yourself.

Begin by boiling the ziti noodles in salted water until very al dente, about 7 minutes. (The pasta will continue to cook in the oven so you want to under cook it just a bit.) Drain and add the pasta back to the pot. Set aside.

how to make baked ziti

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.

how to make baked ziti

Crumble the sausage into the pan and cook, breaking apart with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned and just cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked sausage to a plate.

how to make baked ziti

Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan and set over low heat (if you don’t have enough fat in the pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil). Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until soft but not browned, about 1 minute.

how to make baked ziti

Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, sugar and red pepper flakes and simmer for 10 minutes.

how to make baked ziti

Add the heavy cream, 1/3 cup of the Pecorino Romano, and basil to the pan.

how to make baked ziti

Then stir in the cooked sausage.

how to make baked ziti

Carefully pour the contents of the sauté pan into the large pot with the pasta and gently stir to combine.

how to make baked ziti

Spoon half of the mixture into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the shredded mozzarella and half of the remaining Pecorino Romano.

how to make baked ziti

Spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and Pecorino Romano.

how to make baked ziti

Transfer to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the cheese has melted and browned, about 15 minutes.

how to make baked ziti

Sprinkle with more basil and serve.

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Baked Ziti with Sausage

Servings: 8-10
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ziti noodles
  • 1.5 lbs ground spicy or sweet Italian sausage (or removed from casings)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmigiano Reggiano) cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for serving
  • 8 oz whole milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the ziti according to the package directions for very al dente, about 7 minutes. (It will continue to cook in the oven so you want to under cook it just a bit.) Drain and add the pasta back to the pot. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450°F and set the oven rack in the middle position.
  3. Heat a large sauté pan (preferably nonstick) over medium-high heat. Crumble the sausage into the pan and cook, breaking apart with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned and just cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked sausage to a plate. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan and set over low heat (if you don't have enough fat in the pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil). Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until soft but not browned, about 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, sugar and red pepper flakes and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the heavy cream, 1/3 cup of the Pecorino Romano, cooked sausage, and basil to the pan; stir until evenly combined. Carefully pour the contents of the sauté pan into the large pot with the pasta and gently stir to combine. Spoon half of the mixture into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the shredded mozzarella and half of the remaining Pecorino Romano. Spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and Pecorino Romano. Transfer to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the cheese has melted and browned, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with more basil and serve.
  5. Make ahead: This dish can be assembled and refrigerated, covered, up to 2 days in advance. Since the dish will be cold, the baking time will need to be increased. To bake, cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in a 450°F oven for 25 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned and the pasta is hot throughout.
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Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (10 servings)
  • Calories: 613
  • Fat: 38 g
  • Saturated fat: 18 g
  • Carbohydrates: 43 g
  • Sugar: 6 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 25 g
  • Sodium: 913 mg
  • Cholesterol: 111 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    I mean, seriously. THE best pasta dish I’ve ever made. And it was easy and cheap. Not healthy, but who cares! Everything in moderation.

    - Colleen on February 21, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Absolutely delicious! Another hit Jenn!

    - Sandy on February 18, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Fabulous! Made this dish along with the “Pair With” dishes you suggested – Big Italian Salad and Rosemary Focaccia – for Valentines dinner lastnight fo0r my family. YUMMMMM was the feedback 🙂
    Thanks Jenn!!

    - Jules on February 15, 2018 Reply
  • Hi Jennifer,
    Would it be OK to put this recipe together the day before baking it?

    - Sheila on February 12, 2018 Reply
    • Sure – hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on February 13, 2018 Reply
  • This is one of my new favorite recipes. We are having a luncheon for the teachers at my son’s school next week, and this is what I signed up to bring. Wondering the best way to serve it in a crock pot so it will stay warm…bake first and then transfer to crock pot, or bake it directly in the crock and keep it warm in the crock pot? Advice appreciated!
    P.S. I find I can’t cook anymore unless I’m using one of your recipes!

    - Sally on February 7, 2018 Reply
    • So glad you like this recipe enough to share it with the teachers at your son’s school! I would suggest baking it first and then keeping it warm in the crockpot. Hope they all enjoy it!

      - Jenn on February 8, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this recipe exactly and it was a big hit at the Super Bowl party. I made two casseroles and baked at 450 as written, then baked the 2nd at 425 (because the first had baked/burned bottom and edges. So for my oven this slightly lower temperature was better. And it was an awesome dish. Love it and will make again! Thank you Jen!!

    - Janie on February 6, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Easy and delicious! I’ve been trying to incorporate more veggies into our meals so I added some peeled, diced eggplant that I sautéed in the pan after cooking the Italian sausage. My daughter ate it all up and didn’t even notice the eggplant because it sort of melted into the dish after baking. We are adding this dish to our regular rotation.

    - Melissa K. on February 6, 2018 Reply
  • This was so easy and delicious, in the time it takes to cook the pasta you can do the rest of it. It would be a great weeknight meal or a dish to bring to a party. My whole family enjoyed this.

    - Lisa P on February 5, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This was delicious!! Made this tonight for dinner and my family loved it. I sort of live in the middle of nowhere and was not able to find all of the ingredients. I substituted the romano cheese with parmigiana reggiano and the whole milk mozzarella with part skim. I also used sweet turkey sausage and it turned out great!

    I also want to personally thank you for making mealtime in my home so special. I having been cooking my way through your blog and my husband now knows we don’t question Jenn! I triple love your recipes and can’t wait for your cookbook!!

    - Shami on February 4, 2018 Reply
    • That is so sweet, Shami. So happy your family is enjoying the recipes! ❤️

      - Jenn on February 4, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I love this baked ziti, I usually double the sauce because we like it a little saucier in my house, but it’s delicious!

    - Christina Lengyel on February 1, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    The first time I made this dish, I prepared it ahead of time to leave in the fridge for my parents and kids while my husband and I went out of town. My parents raved about it. I also made it for a family who had just lost their father. It’s a perfect dish to make for people who need some support and care. It’s delicous and easy to make.

    - Brenda on February 1, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for creating amazing recipes with ingredients that I have in my kitchen. I never seem to please my whole family but when I make your dishes, they gobble it up! The baked ziti was absolutely spectacular – hubby said it tasted better the next day. Followed your recipe exactly and I can’t wait to make it again.

    - Joanne on February 1, 2018 Reply
  • Am I able to do all the steps up to baking it in the oven and freeze this dish for future use?

    - Betty Bacque on January 29, 2018 Reply
    • Sure!

      - Jenn on January 30, 2018 Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Can this be made a day ahead and cooked just before dinner?

    - Mary on January 28, 2018 Reply
    • Sure, Mary, that will work. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on January 28, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Fantastic!!! It’s easy but does take a little time to prepare, although not nearly as long as traditional Ziti recipes. Loved, loved, loved it…. so did my husband. Will definitely make it again. I didn’t change a thing in the recipe. Why would you….it is perfect!

    - Belinda on January 27, 2018 Reply
  • I’m planning to make this tomorrow, but no fresh basil at my store. If I use dried, how much would you recommend? Thank you!

    - Carol on January 26, 2018 Reply
    • Hi Carol, I’d probably just use a teaspoon in the sauce. Hope you enjoy it!

      - Jenn on January 26, 2018 Reply
      • 5 stars

        Came out great!

        - Carol on January 27, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this tonight and was a huge hit with my husband… it’s only the two of us so l divided it up into two casserole dishes and froze the other for another night. Followed the recipe and was not disappointed… I used 1/2 spicy Italian sausage and 1/2 regular Italian sausage so I skipped the red peppers and it was perfect.

    - Kimberley on January 25, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jen,
    A dear friend passed away and I am anxious to support his family with some home cooked meals that are either heated up easily or frozen–with delicious results. This seems like a good one. Which of your recipes fit this bill the best and what directions would you provide for the family for thawing/ heating? You are the best, by the way!

    - Norah on January 25, 2018 Reply
    • Norah, I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your friend! Yes, the Baked Ziti is a good candidate for freezing; I’d suggest that you assemble and freeze it unbaked. Let your friends know that when they’re ready to cook it, to defrost the fridge for 24 hours, then proceed with the baking instructions in the recipe. Some other good options for freezing are: Salmon Cakes, Thai Butternut Squash Soup, and Italian Meatloaf. Each of these recipes has guidance for freezing in the recipe instructions. Hope that helps!

      - Jenn on January 28, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    My husband and I love your recipes. I could never get him to eat chicken until I found your recipes. I can’t wait for your book to come out. I would love to make this recipe but we do not eat pork. Do you have any suggestions? I would really like to make this.

    - Stacey A. on January 23, 2018 Reply
    • Hi Stacey, so glad you and your husband are enjoying the recipes and that he is now officially a chicken eater! You can use either chicken or turkey sausage in place of the pork. Please LMK how it turns out!

      - Jenn on January 24, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    So delicious. This will be added to my recipe collection.

    - Anna Fashinell on January 16, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I Made this for my family tonight, and it was delicious. I agree that using cream rather than ricotta is the way to go. All of the baked ziti I’ve made in the past dried up and flaked because of the ricotta. I think stirring mascarpone into the tomato mixture instead of cream would also be delicious. The fresh basil really made this dish. I tucked fresh mozzarella pearls in as I was layering and added slices of fresh mozzarella to the top instead of whole milk mozzarella, and it melted beautifully. This will definitely be added to my regular recipe rotation. Thanks for a great recipe!

    - Robyn on January 12, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Jenn,
    You’ve done it again! Super easy.super great!. I liked the substitution of cream for ricotta and it produced the expected results. Much creamier.
    Funny story. I was making this for a family get together. Mom asked if I had made it before as she wanted everything perfect for the family. I told, Mom it’s from once upon a chef. She knew of the other 5 things I’ve made from your recipes. Enuff said. She was in.

    Thanks again
    P.S I’ve been posting all this to your Instagram page @onceuponachef

    - Eric Dawson on January 8, 2018 Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed it (and thanks for the confidence both you and your mom have in my recipes)! 🙂

      - Jenn on January 8, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This has earned a spot in our regular dinner rotation-my suspicious, casserole fearing boys love it! Thank you once again.

    - Lily on January 7, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi there- can i use a different pasta besides ziti? such as rigatoni? Is there any downside? Thanks!

    - Tanya on January 7, 2018 Reply
    • Sure, Tanya – no downside. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on January 7, 2018 Reply
      • thank you 🙂

        - Tanya on January 7, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made recipe as is – exception of the fresh mozzarella as my local store was out. But even though you were right about the texture of the pre-shredded cheese it was still a big hit. I did a mix of the sweet and spicy Italian sausage and it was just the right amount of kick. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe it’s a keeper for sure! As there are only two of us in our house I froze half of that dish – do you recommend thawing before reheating and do you recommend repeating at the same original temperature and in the oven?

    - Piper on January 4, 2018 Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed it, Piper! Yes, I would recommend putting the frozen ziti in the fridge the night before you plan to serve it. Assuming the frozen ziti is already baked, you can likely bake it for the same amount of time if not a bit longer. (I’d keep it covered, though, so it doesn’t’ dry out too much.

      - Jenn on January 5, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Wow – a real hit with my family!
    Put it into 2 pans – one to bake right away and one to bake a couple days later. Both delicious. Followed the recipe to a ‘t’.

    - Margaret on January 3, 2018 Reply
  • Jenn, would this work with seasoned ground beef? Thanks for your website, I am so glad I discovered it

    - Olga on December 23, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Olga, I think it’s best with sausage but it should also work with well-seasoned ground beef.

      - Jenn on December 23, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    So yummy! By far the favorite pasta dish in my house! Thank you! You always share the best.

    - Liz M on December 22, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    We’ve made this a few times now and really love it. Made a triple batch for a party recently and it was a hit. Froze a little pan for later but haven’t eaten that yet, so I can’t speak to how that will turn out. Can’t see any reason it won’t be great though. Takes a little time, but definitely worth it.

    - David on December 22, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Lovely flavors and very satisfying. The fresh basil really enhances this dish.

    - Niki on December 21, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I don’t normally review BUT this was so good. The sauce was very good. Very much enjoying your recipes

    - Jim on December 20, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this with the sausage and it was spectacular. What changes should I make if I were to make this without the sausage? Vegetarian coming for dinner (not vegan.)

    - Jayce Griffin on December 14, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Jayce, Unfortunately I don’t think this dish would be nearly as good without the sausage since that’s where most of the flavor comes from. You might try this vegetarian lasagna recipe instead.

      - Jenn on December 14, 2017 Reply
    • 5 stars

      I made this vegetarian using frozen Boca crumbles sautéed with a few dried herbs (dried basil, oregano, etc) and it was INCREDIBLE! My young kids and my meat-eating husband loved it. I froze leftovers in small kid-sized portions and it is still fantastic from the freezer. By far our favorite *vegetarian* pasta dish. Thank you!

      - Abbie on January 7, 2018 Reply
  • PS — for spaghetti I would use 50 % ground beef.

    - Dory Solomon on December 13, 2017 Reply
  • Hi Jen — Would you ever use this sauce as a meat sauce for spaghetti? Suggestions?

    - Dory Solomon on December 13, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Dory, Definitely (and I do!).

      - Jenn on December 14, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I don’t dislike many foods, but Italian pasta dishes and sausage are not items I generally crave or seek out. It’s like the two things I don’t really care for were put into a dish, but I made it anyhow. I’m so glad I did! This seemed simple, pretty inexpensive, and soul-warming during the cold and dark winter months that we are experiencing. I made this last week and am making it again tonight. I’m from Iowa, but I was still taken aback by the amount of cream at first. However, it’s a large dish and the cream helps with the reheating factor (this dish makes great leftovers, which I am picky about). I definitely recommend fresh basil because it adds a freshness and flavor pop against the heavier flavors of cheese, pasta, sausage, etc. However, my local grocery store was out of fresh basil last time I made it and it still was delicious!

    - Hannah on December 11, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This recipe is a total keeper, YUM! I used hot Italian sausage meat (from 4 sausages) so left out crushed pepper flakes, otherwise followed the recipe exactly.

    - Marg on December 9, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This recipe was fairly easy to make and, wow, was it ever delicious! I made it just as the recipe called for and am in awe at how good it is without a lot of work. My family loved it and said it’s a “make again”.

    - Shellie on December 7, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Delicious! This tastes like it came from a restaurant. I can’t wait to use the sauce again for many other dishes. We have a small family so I split the mixture into 2 pans. One went into the freezer for Christmas Eve dinner.

    - Mindy on December 7, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this last night along with the big Italian salad (recipe from this site). Wow was it perfect. The only substitution I made was that I had a ground pork/beef to use up but it was only about a pound and thankfully had some honey-garlic sausages. The husband said he would love the sausages cut into medallions in it. So that’s what I did. Everything else I followed spot on. The kids took leftovers for lunch and are actually excited to have it for dinner again as well. Yay. I truly didn’t think one pound of noodles was going to be enough but with the sauce and meat it fit the 9×13 dish perfectly. The family believes this meal has to happen weekly. It is so easy I wouldn’t have a problem with that. Thanks Jennifer. A+ recipe.

    - Jill U on December 6, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I am a huge fan of Once Upon a Chef but was a little apprehensive to a try a baked ziti recipe without riccotta cheese. I decided to try it anyway because so far this site has never let me down, and boy am I glad I did! The sauce was delicious andeven though its a simple recipe its packed with flavor! I cut the sugar in half and used mild spicy sausage, it was perfect!

    - Judit on December 6, 2017 Reply
  • Very easy and very delicious. My son loved it. Will make again.

    - Maria Carver on December 5, 2017 Reply
    • 5 stars

      Oh my! Simple, straight-forward ingredients all come together easily for an elegant comfort dish. I used a spicy organic chicken sausage made right here in our home town, and it was delicious. Thanks for another trustworthy, successful dish.

      - Karen L. Calanchini on December 5, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    My entire family is in love with this recipe. And I love it especially because– in addition to being delicious every single time– it is also really simple to put together and so convenient on nights when everyone is busy. I’ve made it quite a few times by now, and have had just as much success when I use half and half (which we usually have on hand) instead of heavy cream (which we usually do not). The tip about the mozzarella was especially useful to me, as I’d attempted similar recipes with fresh mozzarella, which just doesn’t work very well. Thank you for a family favorite!!

    - Christine Jackson on December 4, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    We really enjoyed this dish! Less time consuming than lasagna, but tastes just as good! I always enjoying reading your recipes. Most of the indredients you use are already in my fridge or pantry. Thanks!

    - Annie on December 4, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    It seems that I am only cooking from your recipes lately. This one was one of our favourite’s! It was quick and delicious. I didn’t change a thing and made it with your big Italian salad. Will be making again for my next dinner party! Thank you 😀

    - Tara Hill on December 4, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This dish was delicious! Quick, easy to make and perfect for a weekday dinner. The kids loved this pasta dish too. This will become a go to recipe for our family for sure!!

    - Liz Clark on December 4, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jenn, since I found your website recently I’ve cooked the Peruvian style chicken with the green sauce, the carrots, big italian salad, mashed potatoes and baked ziti they were delicious! It’s the first time I follow a recipe exactly and have wonderful results, my family say thank you, looking for your book next spring 😉

    - Ysabel on December 4, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this dish three times. Each time it was perfect. The third time I forgot to buy heavy cream but had half and half and mascarpone cheese on hand and used those. Could not tell the difference. I am making it again for new mom. Leftovers are wonderful!

    - Vivian on December 4, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hey Jenn-
    When you make this, do you prefer sweet or spicy sausage? And,have you ever tried it with chicken sausage?
    Thanks!
    Barbara Marietta, GA
    Just found your site and I’m already a fan!!

    - Barbara on December 3, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Barbara, I use spicy because my family prefers it but both work well. I haven’t tried this recipe with chicken sausage but I think it’d be good.

      - Jenn on December 4, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is a keeper!

    - Sue Montgomery on December 3, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    What a wonderfully easy pasta recipe! Hearty and satisfying to the end. This recipe will become one of my top pasta recipes for sure! Thanks Jenn!! Your recipes never disappoint me, nor my family!

    - Dawn Antrim on December 2, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    We absolutely love this dish. It was made with no modifications and has quickly become a family favorite. The tomato sauce is so easy and so delicious.

    - Jim Bolton on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Absolutely perfect. I am not big on Italian Sausages so substituted that with 85% lean ground beef and otherwise followed the recipe.

    - Nuri Karamollaogl on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Easy and a hit with the whole family!

    - Amanda Malone on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This recipe is fantastic! It even surpasses the lasagna recipe I’ve honed over 40 years!

    - Amy on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I host thanksgiving very year with my immediate family. And every year on the Sat night after thanksgiving I host a second event for my father’s side extended family. We are Italian so of course I have pasta each year. So this year I made the Baked Ziti and Sausage. It was FABULOUS!! I doubled the recipe for the number of people and actually made it the
    Day before and then baked it the day of. Everyone loved it. And the leftovers where even better the second day. I love your recipes. They are easy for the everyday cook. Thank you.

    - Jamie on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this for my family and they loved it – haven’t had a recipe we didn’t love from your site! Thank you!

    - Debbie on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • The baked Ziti is fabulous – my new go to for potlucks, new neighbors….
    Easy to make and transport. Full of flavor.

    - Tami on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this recipe to take to a friend whose son had an accident. It was easy to make and transport to their home. I added a green salad and a loaf of Italian bread. They said the casserole was “fabulous”. Will definitely be making this again.

    - Janice M. on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    A delicious recipe and definitely a keeper.

    - margaret middleton on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    WOW, this was fantastic!! I wasn’t certain it would be a hit because it has quite a bit of sausage, and I worried it would not be well received, but I served it at a family dinner and they all loved it! My mom said it was the best baked ziti she’s ever had. I agree!! Again, it does have a lot of sausage meat in it, but it brings so much flavor, so I wouldn’t cut back.

    - Laura on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    We have always loved baked ziti but this is the only recipe to use from now on. Perfect in every way.

    - Debby on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    My Italian husband LOVED this dish as did all 3 of my kids. I always Follow the recipe exactly then make changes, if necessary, for the next time. No changes needed! This dish is perfection.

    - Maggie on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I can’t eat really spicy so I left out the pepper flakes and added Mrs. Dash Italian instead. It was really good.

    - Beverlie Goodson on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this soon after you posted it. It was easy, delicious, and got a big thumbs up from my family. I have a family member who does not care for ricotta cheese and this is perfect. The flavor of the sauce is just so rich and good I could just eat it as is! I will be making this again and again and it freezes well too. This recipe moved to the top of my favorite ziti recipes!

    - Karen T on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    My husband and loved this recipe! Since I didn’t have heavy cream, I substituted organic half and half, and it was still creamy and delicious.

    - Stephanie Oskie on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I have made this dish numerous times and when someone asks for the recipe I give your website. It is so easy, simple yet awesome flavors.

    - Sylvia Mashaw on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This has become a favorite in our small household. I love dividing the recipe into two 8×8 glass dishes and freeze one portion. I defrost over night in the refrigerator and bake it on a busy day. I use turkey sausage often to save calories. Great recipe! I have never been disappointed in Jann’s recipes.

    - Maria Roberts on November 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this for a family dinner this past weekend and it got rave reviews. I made two casseroles, one exactly as written and one with gluten free pasta and seasoned ground turkey and both were amazing! Thank you for another “keeper” recipe!

    - Barbara on November 27, 2017 Reply
  • Your recipes are fantastic Jen! I am going to a dinner tonight and was going to make two of your “nice” lasagnes, but I think I will do one lasagne and this instead. Question: can I sub creme fraiche for the heavy cream here? Thanks so much for your terrific site!

    - Cate on November 25, 2017 Reply
    • I think that’ll work, Cate. The sauce will just be a bit tangier. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on November 25, 2017 Reply
    • 5 stars

      Made this and Julia’s nice lasagna for a potluck. The only sub I did on this one was to use creme fraiche instead of heavy cream and mild turkey sausage instead of pork. It was a huge hit! The flavours are amazing together and both kids and adults enjoyed it. Thanks for another winner!!

      - Cate on November 26, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jenn. This dish is outstanding! I made it last night for my husband and we both couldn’t get enough. I’ll be making it again very soon! Thanks for another great recipe!

    - Evann on November 20, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    We’ve made this a couple times now and really love it. Takes a little time to put together but not too bad (I had to triple it yesterday for a party). Really great flavor for so few ingredients. I used San Marzano tomatoes which are better quality but more expensive. Also added some onion the second time. This is definitely a keeper that we will make again and again.

    - David on November 20, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Sooooooo delicious!!! Doubled up extremely well for a large family gathering. Yet another staple. Thanks Jen!!

    - Kristen on November 16, 2017 Reply
  • Will this work in individual ramekins?

    - Pamela on November 13, 2017 Reply
    • Sure!

      - Jenn on November 14, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Thanks for another great recipe! I don’t always have fresh basil available. Could I substitute dried and if so how much?

    - Dawn C on November 11, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Dawn, The fresh basil really makes the flavors pop here, but you can use dried; I’d suggest 1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp. Hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on November 11, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I just made the baked ziti with sausage and let me say it’s DELICIOUS !! My kids love it and they are very picky eaters.

    - Paula Echavarria on November 10, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This ziti dish is absolutely the best Italian recipe of anything that I have ever made or tasted. It is rich and savory. I divided the recipe into two pans since we are empty nesters. Put the second pan in the freezer for an easy meal in the future month. Jenn, your recipes are always so satisfying and yummy. Your directions are easy to follow and make great cooks out of us ammateurs.

    - Diane Martin on November 4, 2017 Reply
    • So glad you’re enjoying the recipes, Diane! 😊

      - Jenn on November 4, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    It was just awesome!

    - Joan Arvan on November 1, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this tonight, and while delicious, it was a little heavier than our usual fare. I would make it again but definitely save it for a special occasion. I’m always excited to try your recipes, and am looking forward to the new book!

    - Karen Johnson on October 31, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this for a track pasta party and the mom picking up my son sent me a text about how delicious it smelled!When I picked up the whole thing was gone and the boys were raving about how great it was-impressive from 15 year old boys!!! Thank you yet again for another fantastic dish!!!

    - Melissa Kellogg on October 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This recipe is comfort food perfection. I am always looking for great make ahead recipes and this is a keeper!

    - Amy on October 29, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Delicious!

    - Amy on October 22, 2017 Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    I’ve never cooked more & been more satisfied with every dish as much as I have since receiving your emails! I don’t have any fresh basil on hand. Is there an alternative you can suggest?
    Again THANKS!

    - Loree on October 22, 2017 Reply
    • That’s so nice to hear, Loree – so glad you’re enjoying the recipes! You could use thyme, rosemary or sage but definitely reduce the amount or to just a few teaspoons. Or you can just make it without the herbs – it’ll still be delicious.

      - Jenn on October 22, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Jen,
    We are a small family. Can I assemble the recipe and freeze half of it for another day?
    I made the big portion for neighbors that have a very sick mom. They LOVED it. I had a taste as well. YUMMY!
    Thanks

    - Maria Roberts on October 21, 2017 Reply
    • Sure, Maria, that will work. Sorry to hear your neighbor is sick– glad to hear that the family enjoyed the dish!

      - Jenn on October 21, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Jennifer,
    Another wonderful, foolproof recipe! I never would have thought that a sauce that was this simple could taste so good. Thanks for another great recipe!

    - Jim Orvis on October 20, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    We absolutely loved this! My husband actually had seconds, something he hardly ever does then took leftovers to work the next day! Will definitely make this again

    - Judi Richardson on October 20, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Yet another great recipe from once upon a chef! I made this with half sweet/half spicy sausage, and bought sausage patties so I wouldnt have to take them out of the casing, which worked well. I assembled the dish in 2 smaller pans, and froze one before baking. The one I baked immediately was delicious and filling and was great as leftovers as well. Next time I might try leaving out the heavy cream as the sauce tasted great before adding it, but was great as is! Will definitely make again.

    - Raquel on October 19, 2017 Reply
  • Can this dish be prepared and assembled on Friday and finished in the oven on Sunday?

    - Victoria on October 18, 2017 Reply
    • Yes, that’ll work. Hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on October 18, 2017 Reply
      • As I was reading your directions I saw the note. Lol sorry for the stupid question. But…I’m excited! It’s assembled and waiting to go in the oven!! Sunday’s are the only days I don’t cook. So to have an actual homemade meal means a lot. Thank you Jenn! I’ll be back to rate the final product 😊

        - Victoria on October 20, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this with ground beef instead of sausage (family preference) and it was absolutely delicious. It was just as good–maybe even better!–leftover for work the following days. Simple and a hit with the kids–definitely a keeper.

    - Rebecca on October 18, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Awesome recipe! Made it tonight. Question on freezing. Before or after final bake? Having an event coming up. Thanks.

    - Vivienne on October 17, 2017 Reply
    • You really can go either way, but I’d probably freeze it unbaked; when you’re ready to cook it, defrost in the fridge for 24 hours, then proceed with the baking instructions in the recipe.

      - Jenn on October 18, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Just made your baked ziti. Turned out amazing. I love all your recipes and easy to folow instructions.

    - maria kish on October 16, 2017 Reply
    • 😊

      - Jenn on October 16, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Once again, Jenn hits it out of the park with this keeper! Perfect with a good salad and bread. Easily serves 10 people.

    Jenn, I want to make this ahead of time for Thanksgiving week. My question is, can I make the tomato/meat mixture several weeks from Thanksgiving, freeze that and then just make the pasta and add the cheeses the day of? Sincerely, Your biggest fan!

    - Tissa Loehr on October 16, 2017 Reply
    • So glad you enjoyed it, Tissa! You can definitely make the sauce ahead – just leave out the cream and add it when you combine the pasta and sauce the day of.

      - Jenn on October 16, 2017 Reply
      • 5 stars

        Great advice and so glad I asked!

        - Tissa Loehr on October 17, 2017 Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Since we’re not huge sausage fans, I was wondering if I could substitute 1/2 of the meat for beef or turkey? If so, what adjustments would I need to make?
    Thank you so much for your awesome step-by-step recipes! I’ve tried many & every one makes me look like a better cook than I actually am! Can’t wait for the cookbook!!!
    Thanks,
    Kelly

    - Kelly Goodman on October 16, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Kelly, yes you could substitute half the sausage with ground beef or turkey. I would suggest adding a few tablespoons of olive oil before browning it and also lots of extra herbs and spices to mimic the sausage flavor (onion powder, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper, black pepper, oregano, salt, etc). And glad you like the recipes!

      - Jenn on October 17, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this yesterday and it was by far the best ziti of many recipes I have tried. The tip to swap heavy cream for ricotta is brilliant as well as using the spicy sausage. I will definitely be making this again!

    - EileenK on October 15, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Just finished eating this wonderful ziti dish. Other than boiling my ziti a little longer than Jenn suggested, using the already shredded low moisture part skim mozzarella that I had in the fridge, and sweet Italian sausage I followed her directions and wha lah dinner was served.

    The fresh basil really made the flavors pop!

    Thanks Jenn!

    - Delfina Scirocco on October 15, 2017 Reply
  • What would the equivalent spicy italian sausage be? Johnsonville Hot or Mild? I noticed your recipe calls for adding crushed red pepper flakes. This makes me think using the Mild italian sausage is preferred? No one mentioned this being too spicy in the reviews. Thanks for your help. Rhonda

    - Rhonda Geoffrey on October 15, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Rhonda, You can buy either variety depending upon whether or not you like your food spicy. You can always sprinkle more red pepper flakes between the layers before baking if you use sweet sausage and want to up the heat a bit. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on October 15, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this for my husband and in laws. They LOVED it! And so did I. Creamy goodness! Hubby puts it at the top of my list. I wonder if it could be a tad healthier with fat free Half and Half instead of heavy cream?

    - Christie on October 13, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Christie, So glad you all enjoyed it! I think you could get away with half & half but not fat-free. Sorry!

      - Jenn on October 13, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Oooh, loved this! Yum. Turned out perfectly.

    - Robyn on October 13, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Really delicious. The whole family loved it!

    - Heather H on October 12, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this dish last night and it was DELICIOUS!!! I will definitely be making this again!

    - Linda on October 12, 2017 Reply
  • What’s the best way to re-heat the leftovers?

    - Diane on October 12, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Diane, You can cover with foil and reheat in a 325°F oven until hot – or the microwave works, too.

      - Jenn on October 12, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Excellent casserole, and so easy to make. I showed the recipe to my twenty-something son, who made it for dinner when his girlfriend joined us. All seven of us loved this recipe; the fresh mozzarella was a great addition. I like the way you explain things about ingredients and cooking methods in a very straightforward way. My son said the baked ziti reheated well in the microwave for his lunch the next day, so next time we hope to have more leftover.

    - Janet Hamilton on October 12, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I could eat Italian food four or five nights a week; my wife; not so much, once or twice a month is plenty for her. Until now that is. We loved this recipe and since I am the cook we will be having this at least once a month! Thank you Jenn.

    - ken cockrell on October 12, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    My husband does not like pasta dishes, this one he actually loved. It was very good. Usually when I cook pasta he goes to get fast food. 5 stars for this easy recipe

    - Sharon Jackson on October 10, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    LOVED this! I subbed half and half for the heavy cream (because it’s what I had in the fridge) and only used half the cheese (again, what I had in the fridge), and it was still rich and wonderful. Much easier AND tastier than my old baked ziti recipe, which is saying something! Thanks again for a wonderful recipe.

    My only question–how do you get your cheese to grate so neatly? I’ve tried the freezing trick and have tried both a hand grater and food processor, yet my cheese always looks clumpy. Still tastes great, but doesn’t look neat. Any hints/tricks?

    - ali on October 10, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Ali, Glad you liked the ziti! Mozzarella can definitely get clumpy when grated. Make sure you buy a brand that specifies that it’s for grating/shredding. The one I buy is Galbani and it says “great for shredding” right on the package.

      - Jenn on October 10, 2017 Reply
  • Has anyone tried freezing this before cooking it? If so, how did you adjust the cooking times?

    - Jenny on October 9, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    delicous, used only a 1/2 cup of cream and was a hit!

    - taryn on October 9, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This was delicious – creamy and full of flavor! I’m looking forward to leftovers 🙂 Thank you for another wonderful recipe!

    - Kelly S on October 9, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is a keeper for sure! Love it! I have a clear box in my fridge into which we put food that is ‘a little tired’. So, when I made this ziti/penne I added some cauliflower to the pasta towards the end of cooking. Because it is harvest season I also used about 12 plum tomatoes coarsely chopped as I didn’t have canned on hand and then found about a cup of mashed squash in the fridge. With a good glug of red wine and some simmer time, the sauce was wonderful, if I say so myself! It is a super recipe. Love this and also am a fan of your Shrimp curry and Pad Thai and spinach quiche. Thank you for this great website. Use it a lot!

    - Celia on October 9, 2017 Reply
  • 3 stars

    Just my personal opinion I thought the heavy cream was over kill too rich. I would maybe next cut the cream to 1/4 c and add red wine to scrapping of sausage and garlic

    - Sue M on October 8, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is one killer recipe, Jenn. Sometimes the sauce one makes for baked pasta dishes gets dried out and sticky once cooked. But this one does not do that. Even using the sweet Italian sausage, the red pepper flakes added just the right amount of kick. Continued kudos to you for knocking out consistently good recipes that make me look like a trained chef!

    - Tom Hilterbrant on October 8, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Absolutely awesome!!! I made a half portion following the recipe right down to using the wooden spoon and finished baking the pan in my toaster oven. Heavenly result. I was SO impressed with this technique. Well done! No ricotta ever again! Thank you very much

    - Libby on October 8, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this last night and it was a big hit with the family. Easy and delicious! I couldn’t find ziti as well so I used penne instead and it worked just fine. Leftovers are great too!…if you have any left. I made the Big Italian Salad from this site to go with it. Perfect combo with a glass of red wine 🙂 Will definitely add to the rotation. Thanks Jenn!

    - Theresa on October 7, 2017 Reply
  • Made for supper tonight. Awesome!!!! No ziti in store so used penne Thanks for a great recipe.

    - Lee on October 6, 2017 Reply
  • Wow. Our baked ziti has been a strictly vegetarian affair, but I think we might want to work a little variation into the rotation. And this looks just great. Agreed about the Ricotta. Besides, most store-bought Ricotta is abysmal. Filled with gums and other ‘wierd’ stuff (carageenan?), it’s truly a food abomination. I recall when I was a kid, mom brining home a tallish tin (quart size) of fresh Ricotta. It had a plastic wrap over the top, which was held on by a rubber band! It was so creamy and delicious. This gooey stuff they sell in the markets now – no thanks. Oh, thanks for the recipe. This is getting made in the next menu rotation!

    - Al on October 6, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    YUM!
    Thanks for sharing this recipe. My husband and I loved it.

    - Marcia on October 6, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Delicious!!

    - Roberta on October 5, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Delicious! I used half spicy Italian sausage and half sweet Italian sausage. Followed the recipe to a T and it was wonderful. I had trouble to find whole milk mozzarella as most of the cheese bricks are made with partly skimmed milk. I paired it with a Caesar salad (dressing from this site also) and garlic bread. The whole family devoured their meal. Thank you for sharing.

    - Lyne G. on October 5, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this for dinner tonight. It is absolutely fabulous!!!! Thanks for a new family favorite.

    - Dana on October 5, 2017 Reply
  • I have some leftover kale – would it work to add that in? Raw or sauteed? THANKS!

    - Sally on October 5, 2017 Reply
    • Sure Sally; I would saute it first to soften it up. LMK how it turns out!

      - Jenn on October 5, 2017 Reply
      • 5 stars

        I sautéed about half a bunch of kale before sautéing the sausage. We absolutely loved the entire dish. I couldn’t find turkey sausage in my whole foods, so used sweet chicken sausage which was perfect and probably a little lighter. Perfect to make ahead of time

        - Sally on October 8, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    How long will this keep in the fridge after being baked? Thanks!

    - Dina Herron on October 5, 2017 Reply
    • I’d say it would be fine for 2 – 3 days. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on October 5, 2017 Reply
  • Jen, I have a ton of tomatoes from the garden. Could I use fresh tomatoes in this recipe?

    - Marilyn Fisher on October 5, 2017 Reply
    • Sure, Marilyn – I think fresh tomatoes would work well. Please LMK how it turns out!

      - Jenn on October 5, 2017 Reply
      • I used fresh tomatoes. I cut them up and cooked them down while waiting for the pasta water.

        - Marcia on October 6, 2017 Reply
  • Jen, could I make this ahead and bake it 1 or 2 days later? Looks delicious! Thanks,

    Elizabeth

    - Elizabeth on October 4, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Elizabeth, You can assemble and refrigerate the dish up to 2 days in advance. Since it will be cold, the baking time will need to be increased. To bake, cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in a 450°F oven for 25 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned and the pasta is hot throughout. Hope you enjoy and please LMK how it turns out!

      - Jenn on October 5, 2017 Reply
      • When making this ahead, would you recommend letting both the pasta and sauce cool a bit before assembling so the pasta doesn’t absorb too much liquid?

        - Lorraine on October 5, 2017 Reply
        • Hi Lorraine, you could do that, but it’s really not necessary. Hope you enjoy!

          - Jenn on October 5, 2017 Reply
      • 5 stars

        I tried these suggestions for assembling ahead of time, and I baked the next day, pulling the pan straight from fridge to oven. The pasta was on the “well done” side so if you prefer a little more bite may think about decreasing the time baking w foil on top. There will be no issues finishing the pan as it is, though, make no mistake.

        The recipe overall was fabulous! I love how your recipes are so dependably tasty and easy to follow.

        I did cut back on cream to 3/4 cup (all I had left after another recipe) and it was still quite filling and rich. Probably personal preference-i might even try 1/2 cup next time to see if I miss it.

        - Melinda on October 8, 2017 Reply

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