Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage
Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage is made with a delicious sausage-packed pasta sauce complete with fire roasted tomatoes, a layer of perfectly cooked ziti noodles, herbed ricotta, and lots of melty cheese! This pasta casserole is one of my absolute favorites.
Another delicious baked pasta is my Turkey Spinach Meatballs and Spaghetti! It’s a delicious and healthy take on spaghetti and meatballs. Or try my Deconstructed Pizza which is a favorite of kids and adults alike.
Why This Recipe Works
- Easy baked ziti with Italian sausage. Not only is this easy baked ziti recipe simple to put together, but it’s packed with flavor! Using the Italian sausage really amps up the Italian flavor and makes things extra delicious.
- Great freezer meal recipe. Assemble this ziti pasta bake and then store in the freezer for a meal to use later on those busy weeknights! It’s also a great meal to give to friends, family, or neighbors who need some love!
- Delicious ricotta layer. The layers of pasta are accompanied by a ricotta layer that is a total game changer!
- Feeds a crowd! If you’re looking for a great recipe to feed a crowd, this one is perfect.
- Easy take on lasagna. If you love lasagna, but you don’t want to spend the time making it, this is the perfect easy twist on those delicious lasagna flavors.
- Italian Sausage: Using Italian sausage gives an extra boost of Italian flavor. You can use regular sausage, and then just add a bit more of the Italian seasoning to the dish.
- Onion: I love cooking sausage with diced onions. It jus adds an extra flavor element and texture.
- Marinara Sauce: Use your favorite pasta sauce!
- Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes: These aren’t spicy FYI! Fire roasted just means the tomatoes are roasted over a fire! They add the most amazing flavor to the baked ziti with Italian sausage.
- Ziti: Ziti noodles are a tube-shaped pasta like penne, but they don’t have the ridges. You don’t have to use ziti, you can use your pasta of choice.
- Ricotta Cheese: Making easy baked ziti with ricotta is the only way to go! The ricotta layer is filled with parsley, mozzarella cheese parmesan, and an egg to create a deliciously creamy and cheesy layer in this ultimate baked ziti recipe.
- Mozzarella Cheese: You can use preshredded mozzarella or shred your own.
- Cook the sausage. Add 1 lb Italian sausage and the diced onions to a large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat. While cooking, break up the sausage. Once fully cooked, drain any excess fat. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Add the sauce, tomatoes, and seasoning. Add 20 oz marinara, a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup water, and 2 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning to the skillet with the cooked sausage. Stir to combine. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Cook the ziti pasta. Cook the ziti pasta according to the package directions, but cook. 1 minute under al dente. Drain pasta and set aside.
- Make the ricotta mixture. Add 15 oz ricotta, 2 T chopped parsley, 1 egg, 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese to a medium sized bowl. Mix to combine.
- Layer the easy baked ziti recipe in a 9×13-inch pan. In a lightly greased baking dish, pour 1 cup of the sauce mixture in the bottom. Add half of the cooked ziti and spread in an even layer. Top the pasta with all the ricotta mixture, spreading in an even layer. Spoon half of the remaining sauce on top, then the rest of the ziti, and then the rest of the sauce.
- Top with cheese. Top the ziti pasta baked with 2 cups of mozzarella cheese.
- Bake. Bake for 20 minutes or until warm and bubbly. Serve with fresh basil and garlic bread. Enjoy!
Want to add some greens? Add some chopped fresh spinach to the meat once it is fully cooked and let it wilt. You can also add some sauted zucchini to the mixture if you’d like!
Undercook the noodles just a bit since they’ll continue cooking while in the oven.
You know I’m a big sausage fan, but you are welcome to swap out the sausage for ground beef or ground turkey.
Want to creamy up the sauce a bit? Add 1/3 cup of heavy cream to the sauce mixture.
Spice things up by adding some crushed red pepper flakes to the sauce or using hot Italian sausage.
Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing
You can definitely make this baked ziti with Italian sausage ahead of time! Assemble the recipe but instead of baking, cover and store in the fridge for 1-2 days. Then remove and bake as instructed.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days. Reheat in the microwave or oven.
For a baked ziti freezer meal, do everything up until the baking step. Cover the entire casserole in plastic wrap and then a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to bake remove the dish from the freezer, remove the plastic wrap and place the foil back over the casserole dish. Bake at 350°F for about 1 hour. You’ll want to watch it because the baking time will differ as the dish will be frozen.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of pasta dishes that have been frozen beforehand. I suggest you make this and bake it right away. Food always tastes better fresh. 🙂
Yes you can. You can make this 2 in advance if you’d like. Do everything up until the baking step. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and store in the fridge. Once ready to bake, remove the foil and bake as directed.
Yes! The ricotta layer has an egg in it (to give it substance and act as a bind for the ricotta so it bakes into a nice layer). You need to bake it so the egg isn’t raw. If you don’t want to bake it (which I highly recommend you do because it gets all cheesy and delicious!), then I would omit the egg in the ricotta mixture.
Yes. You can make this easy baked ziti recipe into a baked ziti freezer meal! Simply assemble the pasta as instructed but instead of baking, cover the dish in plastic wrap and then a layer of aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Remove the dish from the freezer, take off the aluminum foil and the plastic wrap. Add the aluminum foil back on and bake covered for 1 hour at 350ºF. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 3-5 minutes.
Yes! You’ll boil the pasta but cook it for 1 minutes less than al dente. So look at the pasta box or bag and see what the boil time is for al dente. Then cook 1 minute less. The pasta will finish cooking while in the oven.
Bake it uncovered. You just want to heat the pasta and let the cheese get all melty and bubbly!
I would add a splash of extra sauce to keep things moist and then put it in the oven until warm.
Definitely! Feel free to use your favorite pasta: penne pasta, rigatoni, farfalle, or fusilli are great options.
More Pasta Recipes with Red Sauce
- Best Bolognese Sauce
- Red Pesto Pasta
- Shredded Beef Ragu
- Crockpot Lasagna with Ricotta Cheese
- Penne Pomodoro
Easy Baked Ziti
- 1 lb Italian sausage
- 1/2 sweet onion - diced
- 24 oz marinara sauce
- 14 oz fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 2 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup water
- 16 oz ziti noodles
- 15 oz ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons parsley - chopped
- 1 large egg
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella - divided
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese - shredded
- Preheat oven to 375°F, lightly grease a 13”x9” pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a skillet over medium heat add the sausage and diced onion. Cook, breaking up the sausage as you go. Once sausage is fully cooked. Drain fat, if any.
- Add the marinara, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and water to the skillet. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the ziti pasta to 1 minute under al dente. Drain the pasta and set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl combine the ricotta, parsley, egg, and 1 cup of mozzarella and 1/2 cup parmesan. Stir to combine.
- Add 1 cup of the sauce to the bottom of the baking dish. Add half of the ziti pasta to the dish. Top with all of the ricotta, doing your best to spread it in an even layer. Top with half of the remaining sauce.
- Add the rest of the ziti, the remainder of the sauce, and then top with 2 cups of shredded mozzarella.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until warm and bubbly.
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