Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage

This recipe is one of my first loves- it always reminds me of home. This is an adaptation of my mother’s recipe in combination with other recipes I have found and tried along the way. I hope it brings warmth to your family’s table too! This recipe can be prepped ahead of time (portion it out and freeze for a great meal prep gift for a new parents!) and while it’s baking throw together a salad and garlic bread for an easy weeknight meal.


  • 1 lb ziti or rigatoni (I love the ridges)
  • 1-1.5 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1/4 sweet onion chopped *optional*
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28 oz jar of marinara (I use Rao’s)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmigiano) cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp+ Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp+ garlic powder

*For make ahead, assemble and refrigerate, covered, up to two days. When ready, cover dish with aluminum foil and place in a 425° oven. Baking time will need to be increased since dish is cold. Bake with aluminum on for about 25 minutes, uncover and bake for 10-15 more until cheese is brown

*To freeze ahead, the dish can be frozen unbaked after assembly. When ready, defrost in the fridge for 24 hours then cook to instructions above.


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package for very al dente (it will continue to cook in the oven so undercook a tad). Drain pasta, set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 425°
  • Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add sausage, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until just browned. Transfer to a bowl leaving about 1 tablespoon of the fat (if you don’t have enough simply add olive oil). Set the heat to low, add in garlic (and onion if using) and cook stirring frequently until soft. Add in the marinara and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the heavy cream, 1/3 cup of the Romano cheese, cooked sausage, and basil to the pan and stir to combine. Turn off heat.
  • In a small bowl combine ricotta with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder to taste.
  • In a 9×13-inch baking dish, lay down half of the cooked pasta followed by half of the sausage and sauce mixture. Spoon the ricotta over top either in spaced blobs or smooth out with a spoon. *I tend to add a little of the mozzarella and parmesan here but you can save it all for the top if you prefer* Finish layers with the leftover pasta and the rest of the meat sauce mixture. Top with mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with remaining Romano.
  • Transfer to the oven and baked uncovered until cheese has melted and browned (15-20 minutes). Sprinkle with more basil on top and serve.

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