I am in no way a food blogger – my photography skills are far too slim for that! – but every once in a while I tweak a recipe enough to need to write down the changes so that I can recreate the effect again, and this happened recently when I made baked ziti. So, to be completely honest, this post is really for my own benefit, but if you’d like to try it out too, our family can affirm its yumminess!
I started off with this recipe via Cooking Classy. Side note: If you’ve never checked out her recipes before, I highly recommend stopping over and browsing around. I don’t think I have ever made a recipe from her site that our family didn’t love!
Here’s what I did….
- 1 lb. mild Italian sausage
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups of marinara sauce (I use my recipe, here)
- 15 oz. ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella (reserve 1/2 c. for topping at the end)
- 3/4 cup shredded parmesan (reserve 1/4 c. for topping at the end)
- 1 T. dried parsley
- 1 lb. penne pasta
- salt and pepper
Brown sausage in a skillet until cooked through. Drain fat if desired and stir in marinara sauce until heated through. Taste and add additional salt or pepper if desired.
Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
Mix ricotta, egg, mozzarella, parmesan, parsley, and salt and pepper. Basil and/or oregano would also be great additions or substitutes here. Add cheese mixture to pasta and stir well. Taste and add additional seasonings as needed. At this point, your kid will wander through and catch your sampling; this will prompt her to request a taste also. After a one-noodle sample, she will apply for a small bowl of cheesy noodles for better analysis. Once she departs with said small bowl of noodles, proceed immediately with the rest of the recipe before she returns to request additional samples.
Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray if you hate to scrub dishes. Spoon approximately 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce mixture in the bottom of the pan and spread around evenly. Top with all of the noodle mixture, followed by the remaining sauce mixture, spreading each layer evenly in the pan. Finally sprinkle with the reserved mozzarella and parmesan. Bake uncovered in a 350* oven for approx. 20 minutes. Serve with a big salad and crusty bread.
- You could probably mix all of the cheese mixture ingredients directly into the pan that you cooked your pasta in (after draining, of course!) and save yourself a dish to wash. I had simply already worked that far ahead in the original recipe before I decided to “depart from the text.” (Any other Goodnight Opus readers out there?)
- To turn this into a freezer meal, you can easily double the recipe; or, if you have a smaller family, make the full recipe and divide into two 8×8 pans. For taste and texture, try to thaw ahead of time and bake according to recipe directions, possibly adding up to 1/4 c. of water to help with moisture. If you must, you can bake directly from the freezer for approx. 1 hr. or until heated through, however I would advise covering with foil for all but the last 15 minutes and would definitely add the water to help retain moisture.