Introducing cheesy, baked ziti with ground sausage, ricotta, and mozzarella. It’s hearty, cheesy, super filling, and comes together in a SINGLE cast iron skillet.
YES. All you need is one cast iron pan. No pre-boiling of the ziti is required thanks to the simple hack of cooking/baking the pasta right within the marinara sauce. I’m REALLY fired up about this recipe because it’s incredibly easy to make and the best baked ziti I’ve ever had.
How to Make Baked Ziti
This true baked ziti recipe is broken down into two simple steps. Browning the sweet Italian sausage on the stovetop in the skillet. And baking the ziti in the oven in a watered-down marinara sauce for about 30 minutes.
The sauce is enhanced with minced garlic, fresh basil, and extra ricotta cheese. It gives the sauce a creamier texture without the need for actual cream.
The trick to no-boil, baked pasta is adding about 2 cups of water to the sauce before baking. The ziti will soak up the water (and all the flavors) and fully cook, leaving you with marinara sauce that has the perfect consistency.
I was a major skeptic of this method at first. I thought at best the ziti might be slightly chewy around the corners or dried out but to my surprise—it was perfectly al dente.
the final finishing touch—a cheesy topping of fresh mozzarella and ricotta cheese. I like to top dollops of ricotta and chunks of mozzarella and broil the dish until the cheese is melted and just starting to brown. Finish with more chopped fresh basil and you’re ready to impress.
It’s absolutely delicious and hassle-free. A perfect hearty weeknight dinner the whole family is going to be obsessed with.
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Easy-to-make baked ziti made with ground sweet Italian sausage, melted ricotta and mozzarella cheese. All made in a single cast iron skillet, no boiling required.
- 1 pound ziti or penne, uncooked
- 1/2–1 pound ground sweet Italian suasage
- 24 ounces marinara/pasta sauce
- 2 1/2 cups water*
- 1 cup ricotta cheese, divided
- 1 8 ounce ball fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 6–8 basil leaves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Additional basil for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 °F.
- In a cast iron skillet on medium heat, combine olive oil and garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Add ground sausage, breaking up with the tip of a spatula into small chunks. Cook until browned, about 7-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add marinara, water, chopped basil, and 1/2 cup of ricotta. Stir until fully incorporated.
- Mix in uncooked ziti. Be sure the ziti is evently distributed to the edges of the skillet and mainly fully submerged. It’s okay if a few are floating on the surface.
- Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove skillet from the oven and give the entire dish a quick stir to evenly mix sausage and ziti.
- Top with mozzarella chunks and tablespoon-sized dollops of ricotta. Turn the oven to 500 °F or high broil. Bake uncovered for 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is fully melted and starting to brown. Top with fresh basil and serve.
If you use 1/2 pound of sausage or omit the sausage altogether, you only need 2 cups of water as opposed to 2 1/2.
Keywords: baked ziti, baked ziti with ricotta, baked ziti with sausage