In this Baked Ziti with Sausage & Spinach, spicy Italian sausage, fresh spinach, and a tomato-pesto sauce are tossed with penne or ziti noodles for a flavorful, unique spin on the classic baked ziti recipe. Comfort food at its finest.
It’s September and still hot, really still summer weather in many parts of the country. For that reason, I really debated about whether I should share this recipe with you now, or whether I should save it for a month or two. This recipe is all about comfort food to me. My mom made it when I was growing up, so it’s not just comforting but nostalgic.
But I decided to share it with you today for two reasons. First, if you’ve got a garden going, you might be in the same place I was last month – lots and lots of basil. I like it like that, as I make pesto and freeze it for use during winter months. This is a great, more unique recipe for that pesto.
But the second reason I wanted to share this sooner rather than later is because the chaos of 2020 hasn’t diminished. I know everyone is doing something a little differently, based on what’s best for their family and their local environment, but you know what? We all have busy days now and then. And really, this is a great recipe for that. Whether you’re a few weeks into the school year, working crazy hours, or attempting to balance work/virtual leaning/childcare/all the things (like me!)…. this recipe is for you.
My recommendation? Double it. Prep it on the weekend, stash one in the freezer for later and then bake the other later in the week. It only takes a couple extra minutes in the prep, and you’ll be so happy that you’ve got a homemade meal stashed away. You’re welcome.
- I usually use homemade basil pesto in this recipe, but feel free to use store-bought as well.
There are multiple options for preparing the ziti ahead, depending on whether you’re entertaining or hoping to stash a ziti in the freezer for a later date..
- The sausage-tomato mixture may be assembled and refrigerated a day ahead of time, if needed. Bring to a simmer before assembling.
- I have assembled the entire ziti earlier in the day, refrigerated, and then baked that evening. Bake time is longer, about 45-60 minutes. Cover with foil for the first 30 minutes of baking to avoid burning.
- Entire ziti may also be assembled, covered tightly in plastic wrap (I usually do plastic wrap, foil and plastic wrap again) and frozen. Allow ziti to defrost in refrigerator for at least a day before baking using the directions above in #2 (longer time, foil for first 30 minutes).
Baked Ziti with Sausage & Spinach
In this Baked Ziti with Sausage & Spinach, spicy Italian sausage, fresh spinach, and a tomato-pesto sauce are tossed with penne or ziti noodles for a flavorful, unique spin on the classic baked ziti recipe.
- 1 lb. spicy Italian sausage casings removed
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 c. basil pesto
- 12 oz. uncooked ziti or penne pasta cooked according to package
- 8 c. spinach leaves (7-8 ounces)
- 1 c. shredded mozzarella divided
- 1 c. grated Parmesan divided
Preheat oven to 375F.
In a large skillet set over medium heat, brown sausage, breaking up with a wooded spoon and turning every few minutes. When sausage is almost cooked, add onion and garlic, continuing to saute until sausage is cooked throughout and onions are translucent. Add crushed tomatoes and simmer about 10 minutes, until sauce starts to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in pesto.
While sauce is cooking, prepare uncooked pasta according to package. Drain and return pasta to pot. Toss with spinach, 1/2 c. mozzarella and 1/3 c. Parmesan. Add half of the sausage-tomato mixture and stir. Add remaining 1/2 c. mozzarella and remaining sausage-tomato mixture.
Pour ziti into a large 9x13 inch oven-safe baking dish. Sprinkle ziti with remainign 2/3 c. Parmesan cheese.
Bake in preheated oven until bubbly and cheese has melted, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
This recipe was adapted from a 1994 Bon Appetit recipe.