Mary Anne's New York Baked Ziti With Sausage

During this busy time of year, baked ziti is a delicious dish that goes together in a hurry. It can be made ahead and frozen. Be sure to defrost it and allow extra cooking time.

1-16 ounce package ziti pasta

1 pound hot ground Italian sausage, sweet or hot

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large can diced mushrooms, drained, optional

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

6 ounces basil pesto, either homemade or store-bought in a jar

15 ounces ricotta cheese

1 (9-ounce) package washed baby spinach, stems removed

Butter, for baking dish

2 cups shredded mozzarella, plus more for topping

1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan, plus more for topping

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add ziti and cook until al dente. Drain in a colander. Cover with dish towel and set aside.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté sausage. Add onion, garlic and mushrooms, if using, and sauté until the sausage is cooked through. Use your spoon to break up the sausage while it cooks. Add the can of diced tomatoes and pesto and simmer it for approximately 10 minutes.
  • Add the ricotta cheese, spinach, Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Add the cooked pasta, then sausage mixture and cheese mixture and stir once again to combine. Butter a 4-quart baking dish and spoon mixture into baking dish. Top with a sprinkling of mozzarella and Parmesan.
  • Bake until completely heated through and golden and crisp on top, about 20 minutes.

Serves 8.

Note: If available you can substitute turkey Italian sausage or chicken Italian sausage. You
can also substitute one package of chopped frozen spinach, but be sure to drain it well after
you have defrosted it.