Weekend Cooking: Skillet Baked Ziti with Sausage

One thing you all probably don’t know about me is that I actually really enjoy cooking. I used to hate it, until I realized (a) I was actually good at it. I often feel like nothing comes naturally to me (except reading fast, of course), so when I realized that I had a knack for cooking, it made me more interested in it. And, until we moved to our current, awesome neighborhood where we have 50+ bars and restaurants within walking distance, (b) I usually liked what I could make at home better than what we could easily get out. Oh, and (c) the healthier thing and eating out too often makes me just not feel well.

One person who was instrumental in helping me learn to cook (and who I still go to when I need a little help in the kitchen) is Beth Fish Reads. She has a weekly feature on her blog called Weekend Cooking where she blogs about cookbooks, recipes, and more—anything food related. I’ve been asked quite often on Twitter to share my recipes, which I’m happy to do, but sometimes I don’t have them handy to email. I’ve also wanted to start talking about cooking more on my blog, so I thought that participating in Weekend Cooking would be the perfect way to do that! Of course, I’m probably not going to get around to it every week (I’m loathe to commit myself to anything, lest I over commit myself), but hopefully going forward, I’ll have a recipe to share with you most Saturdays.

Now…onto the recipe!

When the weather turns cold, there’s nothing I crave more than a cheesy baked pasta with red sauce. (And chilis. And soups. And anything from the slow cooker.) But these often take a lot of time and planning to make, and since I usually stick to recipes that can be thrown together in 30–45 minutes, I don’t make a ton of these.

Another thing I love? ONE POT MEALS. Though my husband is in charge of cleanup, there’s nothing more discouraging than looking around after you’ve been at the stove for an hour and seeing a kitchen full of dirty dishes. It’s just disheartening. So I love meals that use a minimum of dishes.

This recipe combines both these two loves: a cheesy, satisfying pasta that doesn’t take too long to make or dirty too many dishes. It’s become a favorite in our house—served with a quick tossed spinach salad, it’s a great weeknight meal.

Baked Ziti with Sausage

Skilled Baked Ziti with Sausage
(adapted from Pasta Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen)

Ingredients:

1 can whole peeled tomatoes, Roma if you can find them (28 oz)
1 pound hot Italian chicken or turkey sausage (you can use sweet if you prefer, you can also use the real thing, but I prefer to cut back on the calories)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (you can cut back on this if you like, but I love the spicy in this dish!)
3 cups water
12 oz dried ziti
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half (again, depending on your calorie preference)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (this is important: get the stuff you shred yourself, rather than a preshredded bag. It makes SUCH a difference for not that much more effort.)
Salt and pepper

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F and adjust oven rack to middle position.

2. Pour can of tomatoes into a bowl and, with clean hands, squeeze the tomatoes until no large pieces remain. (The cookbook says to put them in a food processor, but really, this works just as well and doesn’t require bringing out a whole new appliance. Really, it’s all about simplicity.)

3. Cook sausage in a big oven-safe pot or skillet over medium high heat, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes and continue to stir for another minute or so, until you can really smell the garlic. Stir in the tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon of regular salt. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes taste cooked.

4. Add the water and pasta and stir. Turn the temperature back to medium high and stir often as the mixture simmers. It’ll take somewhere between 15 and 18 minutes for the pasta to cook.

5. Once the pasta is finished cooking, add the cream/half and half, Parmesan cheese, and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste (usually for me, this means a few grinds of my pepper mill and a healthy pinch of salt). Sprinkle the mozz on top, and then put the whole thing in the preheated oven for another 10 minutes or so, until the pasta has browned on top.

YUM. (And yes, I realize that’s penne in the picture not ziti. It’s what I had in my pantry.)

This serves about 4 people.

Baked Ziti out of the oven

Straight out of the oven! (And yes, I’ll try to get better at the pictures. Photographing food is hard!)

Comments

  1. That looks yummy! I don’t really enjoy cooking that much – I guess that’s because I’m not very good at it.

    • It took me a LOOONG time. I used to hate hate hate it. I think the fact that R’s started doing the dishes again (he stopped when he was working his nightmare job) and the new kitchen I love helped a lot with that.

  2. I love easy one-pot meals. This looks perfect for a easy yet delish weeknight meal!

  3. This looks like the perfect meal for a fall night.

  4. Yum! I’m also a big fan of one-pot meals. And of eating at home because I feel healthier!

  5. Yum -= looks fab! The photos are fine! Cheers from Carole’s Chatter

  6. Love the look and sound of your pasta dish, and anything that can be made in just one pan is an absolute winner with me.

  7. Aww thanks for the shout-out. As you know, I adore cooking! I also love one-dish meals and this one looks wonderful and adaptable (by pasta, sausage, etc.). Having a great kitchen to cook in and help with cleanup makes a huge difference, doesn’t it. So glad you’ll be playing along here at Weekend Cooking when the mood hits.

  8. Welcome to Weekend Cooking! I love this recipe from ATK and I am trying your version this week.

  9. I love simple, one pot meals like this too. Sometimes you just need an easy, quick dish that you can throw together on busy nights.

  10. Baked ziti with sausage is one of my daughter’s favorite dishes!

  11. I love one pot meals. I love that your husband does clean-up duty! I will have to give this recipe a try. Thanks for joining weekend cooking.

  12. I made it yesterday–delicious!

  13. This seems perfect for a week night dinner when in actuality all I’d like to do after work is just crawl into bed and wake up the following night!

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