Friday, May 13, 2011

Twirled Tour: Baked Ziti with Sausage

As usual, I had a hard time getting back into the swing of things after our long weekend trip. That meant I was too exhausted to cook ... and I hadn't been grocery shopping!

When either of those two factors come into play, I always turn to the freezer and pantry. And when I discover what's inside, I hunt for a recipe to use it. Pasta is a great go-to dish when you're running short on time (or ingredients).  Inevitably, there's pasta in our pantry (usually quite a variety of half-used boxes, as evidence by the combination you'll read about below!). And I almost always have Italian sausage in the freezer. So this Baked Ziti with Sausage seemed like a no brainer ... and a perfect opportunity to continue our Twirled Tour!).

Baked Ziti with Sausage
1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes
4 oz. ziti or whatever other pasta you have on hand (about 1 1/4 cups)
6 oz. Italian sausage
1/4 cup jarred roasted red peppers, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Pulse tomatoes with their juice in food processor until coarsely chopped and no large pieces remain, 6 to 8 pulses.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add pasta (I used a combination of mostaccioli and cavatappi because I happened to have small amounts of each on hand!) and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain pasta.

Add sausage to pot and cook over medium-high heat, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until fat begins to render, about 2 minutes. Stir in roasted red peppers (the recipe actually called for half of a fresh red bell pepper, but I had a jar of roasted in the fridge so I subbed!) and cook until sausage is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes, basil and sugar and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in processed tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer gently until tomatoes no longer taste raw and sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes.

Add sauce to pasta and toss to combine. Pour into 9x11-inch baking dish. Sprinkle cheese over the top.

Bake until cheese has melted and browned and pasta has heated through, 10 to 15 minutes. Let pasta cool for 5 minutes before serving.

This was good, but not as good as the Baked Rigatoni with Eggplant and Sausage that I made from Tyler's cookbook a few weeks back. I actually had to doctor this sauce (with the addition of sugar and tomato paste) because it just wasn't very exciting. I think the difference between this and Tyler's baked pasta was the hearty chunkiness that he had going on - the tomatoes were still sort of lumpy because you crushed them with your hands, the sausage was cut into big bite-sized pieces, and the eggplant was sliced and tossed with the whole concoction. This was just pasta tossed with sauce and sprinkled with cheese. Very good, just not outstanding.


  1. Baked Ziti! My favorite! I have no doubt this was delicious, even if it didn't live up to your standards. Whenever I (attempt) to make it, which is about twice a year, I put some mozzarella in the sauce too.. is that weird? Then on top. Super heavy on the cheese :p And of course I used jarred sauce, I don't know how to do anything else lol.

  2. That's not weird at all! In fact, I think Tyler's recipe called for fresh mozzarella balls to be folded into the pasta mix. I just didn't do it because Bill brought home the wrong kind of mozzarella when I sent him to the store!