The Best Baked Ziti (Postpartum Ziti)

The Best Baked Ziti (Postpartum Ziti)


This recipe for the best Baked Ziti is a huge favorite! Italian sausage marinara, cottage cheese, and fresh basil combine to make this decadent casserole.
  • 1 pound ziti, or penne/rigatoni if you can't find ziti
  • olive oil
  • For the red sauce
  • 1 pound mild Italian sausage
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • For the cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream, cold
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • For the cottage cheese mixture
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 pound cottage cheese
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, chopped into ¼ inch cubes
  • To top casserole
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, chopped into ¼ inch cubes
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • more chopped basil, to garnish after baking
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a deep 9x13 inch casserole dish with nonstick spray, focusing on the edges.
  2. Cook the pasta. Fill a 3 quart pot with water and add 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Add 1 pound ziti (or other tubular pasta, if you can't find ziti.) Cook until just shy of al dente, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain pasta into a colander and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil so that it doesn't stick together. Stir to distribute oil. Set aside. Save the pot that you boiled the pasta in!
  3. Meanwhile, make the red sauce. In a large skillet, crumble and cook 1 pound Italian sausage over medium high heat until thoroughly cooked and no longer pink, it should take about 5 minutes. Drain and discard the fat. (I usually turn off the heat while draining the fat)
  4. Once the fat is drained (turn the heat back to medium high and wait until the pan is hot again), add 5 cloves of minced garlic. It should be somewhere between 1 and 2 tablespoons, you can adjust this amount to taste.
  5. Add the spices: 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Saute the garlic and spices with the sausage for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  6. Add the can of tomato sauce and can of diced tomatoes. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the mixture bubbles, then turn to medium low and simmer for about 10 minutes to marry all those flavors a bit.
  7. Take the skillet off the heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon sugar and ½ cup fresh chopped basil.
  8. Thicken the cream: In the now-empty pot that you boiled the pasta in, add 1 cup cold heavy cream. Whisk in 1 teaspoon cornstarch until there are no lumps at all. Set the pot over medium heat and bring to a very low simmer, stirring frequently. The mixture should be thickened in about 3-4 minutes.
  9. For the cottage cheese mixture: Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat 2 eggs well. Add 1 pound cottage cheese and combine well. Stir in 1 cup Parmesan cheese and 1 cup cubed mozzarella.
  10. Once the cream has thickened, remove from heat and stir in the cottage cheese mixture. Add 1 cup of the red sauce and stir together.
  11. Add the drained pasta to the pot with the cottage cheese and stir to combine.
  12. Transfer all the pasta to the prepared deep 9x13 inch pan.
  13. Spread the remaining red sauce evenly on top of the pasta.
  14. Top the casserole with 1 cup chopped mozzarella cheese and sprinkle evenly with ½ cup Parmesan cheese.
  15. Spray a sheet of foil with nonstick spray and cover the casserole. (If you don't grease the foil, it will stick to the cheese!)
  16. If your casserole is very full, place on a baking sheet in case it bubbles over.
  17. Bake the covered casserole at 375 for 25 minutes.
  18. Remove the foil and bake for another 25 minutes.
  19. If you would like to brown the cheese even more, move your oven rack to the highest position and broil for 1-2 minutes. Don't walk away!
  20. Let the baked ziti sit for about 10 minutes before digging in.
  21. Garnish with fresh chopped basil.

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