Baked Ziti was another one of my mother’s awesome “go to” dishes, especially during the week while we were at school or on a Sunday night since you can easily feed the entire family. One of the techniques I am promoting as the sous chef here at the Homemade Chef is to turn easy recipes into complex (while remaining manageable for us aspiring chefs) and fancy meals. To make this Ziti a bit more gourmet, I added Fontina cheese and Italian pork sausage. I am not going to lie, I never made this prior to this evening, but that is how we learn and become more confident. The good news is it came out marvelously and I really have no idea how I spent the last 30 years eating Baked Ziti without Fontina and pork sausage in my Baked Ziti!
The recipe below can be customized to your needs. For a lighter dish swap out the ground beef for ground turkey and replace the pork sausage with chicken sausage. For the sauce add herbs and spices that you enjoy. Matt and I love our sauces sweet with some heat, but keep them or change them out to your preference.
Finally this is a great recipe to make ahead. You can pre-make the sauce and noodles. Assemble it all it in a disposable foil pan and put it in the fridge if you plan on making it within 24 hours or in the freezer for up to 4-6 weeks.
Enjoy and let me know how it goes in the comments section!
Sous Chef Andrew
1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground mild sausage (or 2 sausages, uncased)
1 yellow onion, diced
3 stems celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbps chiffonade fresh basil
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
Salt & Pepper
1 lb Ziti noodles, cooked 2 min under box directions
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
7 oz Ricotta cheese
6 oz Fontina cheese, grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a lasagna pan or baking dish. Heat a large dutch oven and add the ground beef and ground sausage, and cook until browned and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add 2 tbsp olive oil and saute the onions and celery until translucent. When cooked through but still slightly crisp, add the garlic, oregano and chili flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar to taste (to your preferred level of sweetness) and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 15-20 minutes to let the flavors develop, tasting and seasoning throughout as needed. Meanwhile, cook the Ziti noodles in heavily salted water, 2 minutes under the box directions. When cooked and slightly al dente, drain and toss with olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking together.
When the sauce is cooked and the flavors intensified, put half the Ziti noodles in the bottom of a greased lasagna pan or baking dish. Ladle half the sauce on top of the noodles. Scoop large tablespoons of Ricotta cheese around the dish. Tear half the mozzarella into pieces and distribute on the dish. Add the rest of the noodles, followed by the rest of the sauce and more Ricotta cheese. Add the rest of the mozzarella (sliced), and top with the Fontina and Parmesan.
Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes until bubbly and the cheese is starting to brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!