Not just another baked ziti recipe….This one is extra special because it’s made with a super easy homemade Italian sausage mixture (though you can use store bought!). Faster than squeezing the meat out of casings, cheaper than buying premium Italian sausages and you know exactly what goes in it!
Last year as I squeezed meat out of Italian sausages for the umpteenth time in my life, I had a revelation: why on earth don’t I just MAKE the sausage mixture using pork mince? I mean, classic Italian sausages are simply made with pork, fennel, paprika, salt and pepper. Usually with some heat added using red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper.
Why go to all the effort to a) find a good Italian butcher b) pay a premium; and c) get greasy hands and fingernails from squeezing the meat out of sausage (and be annoyed with wasted bits of meat that stubbornly remain stuck in the casings) when it is just so simple to make an Italian sausage mixture using ground pork??
I do still on occasion splurge on high quality Italian sausages for “special occasion” recipes. Like this Italian Sausage and Beef Ragu (my knees go weak at the memory). But for everyday meals like this, I just use a simple homemade Italian sausage mixture.
Seriously. Look at it. Deep golden brown, seasoned and spiced to my taste. And no greasy hands (squeezing meat from sausage casings is dirty work!).
It’s the sausage that makes this pasta bake something really special. The heavy Italian seasonings in the homemade sausage mixture takes this to the next level, rather than being “just another pasta bake”. When the sausage mixture is simmered in the tomato sauce, all that flavour seeps into it making this one of the best damn (midweek*) pasta sauces I’ve ever had.
And isn’t the colour fabulous?? Extra rich deep red, owing to the paprika in the sausage.
2 weeks ago I declared “Autumn is well and truly here!” then the weather turned again and I was trumpeting about an endless summer.
Well, I really mean it this time when I say Autumn is here. I made it official by pulling my ugg boots out.
And this baked ziti is like a big, warm hug, reminding me that I should embrace the change in weather rather than sulking that I won’t be hitting the beach every day. 🙂
So this recipe today is dedicated to all those in the southern hemisphere who, like me, are preparing to hunker down for winter. ❤️ Grab your ugg boots, light the fire, curl up on the lounge and let’s celebrate the cooler months when we can indulge in pure comfort food like this! – Nagi x
PS No laughing at my Baby Hands…?
- 300g ziti or penne pasta (Note 1)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 onion (brown, white or yellow), finely chopped
- 1lb/500g ground pork (mince) OR Italian Sausages removed from casings (Note 2)
- 1.4lb / 700g bottle of tomato passata / pureed tomato (Note 3)
- ½ cup water
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp sugar (any type)
- Salt and pepper
- ¾ cup grated mozzarella cheese
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp paprika (any type - all go great with this)
- 1½ tsp red pepper flakes OR ¾ tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt (table salt)
- Cook ziti for the recommended cooking time on the packet MINUS 2 minutes. (Note 5) Drain and transfer to baking dish.
- Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes or until onion is translucent.
- Add pork mince and cook, breaking it up as you go, until it turns from pink to white. Add Sausage Seasonings and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add passata, water, basil, oregano and sugar. Bring to simmer, reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste (remember it gets spread across lots of pasta).
- Pour the sausage mixture over the ziti. Top with cheese. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 5 to 10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and golden. Stand for 5 minutes before serving.
2. A pork / beef combination is also lovely with this. Or even all beef!
3. Tomato passata is just pureed tomato. It creates a thicker smoother sauce than using crushed canned tomatoes. In Australia it's available in supermarkets in the pasta section and costs around the same as canned tomatoes. You can use a blender to puree canned tomatoes if you can't find passata or you could use store bought pasta sauce (Marinara) instead.
4. You could make this with store bought Italian sausages if you prefer. If you do this, do not use the Sausage Seasonings in this recipe.
5. I cook the pasta for less because it continues cooking in the oven.
Nutrition per serving assuming 5 servings.
A snap of a very fleeting moment when Dozer was not heavy breathing on the pasta. 2 seconds after this, his nose was inches from the bowl and he was being shooed away. And no comments on the filthy windows!!?