This comforting dish is the best thing to make when you've got a crowd coming over. With the dollops and dots of ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella throughout the dish, every bite is guaranteed to be cheesy, saucy and delicious. You can assemble everything hours before baking, and then pop it in the oven right before your guests arrive. Or, make the entire dish for yourself, then portion and freeze the leftovers for a super easy meal you can reheat any busy weekday.
If you want to make it vegetarian, simply eliminate the Italian sausage
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 28 Ounces whole peeled tomatoes
- 28 Ounces tomato puree
- 1/2 Pound Italian sausage
- 1 Pound ziti pasta
- 1 Pound ricotta
- 3/4 Cups Parmesan and romano cheese mix
- 1/2 Cup heavy cream
- 1 Pound fresh Mozzarella, torn into small pieces
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven and add onion, garlic and Italian sausage.
Saute the onion and garlic while the sausage browns, breaking it up with a spatula.
After the onions become translucent and the sausage is browned, add tomato paste and stir to combine.
Using your hands, crush the whole peeled tomatoes directly into the pot along with the juices from the can.
Pour in the tomato puree.
Season generously with salt and pepper.
Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta as directed on the packaging. But do not cook longer than al dente. It will continue to cook in the oven later.
When the pasta is done, ladle a few tablespoons of starchy pasta water into the tomato sauce and stir.
In a bowl, mix the ricotta, cream, and Parmesan/romano cheeses.
Season the cheese mixture with salt and pepper.
When the tomato sauce is done, it's time to assemble the dish in a baking dish.
Mix 3 cups of tomato sauce with the drained pasta in a separate bowl.
Ladle about a cup of the tomato sauce onto the bottom of the dish and spread evenly.
Cover with an even layer of pasta.
Spread 1/3 of the remaining tomato sauce over the pasta.
Dollop half of the cheese mixture and 1/3 of the torn mozzarella on top of that layer.
Repeat the layers.
Finish with one more layer of the rest of the pasta and sauce, followed by the remaining torn mozzarella. Be sure to get sauce in every crack and crevice, as well as along the sides of the dish.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow it to cook for a few minutes before serving.