Rob and I came up with this Baked Ziti recipe to give us an easy post-travel dinner. I wanted to get the general feel of baked ziti without the need for a separate casserole dish and an egg-based cheese mix. It worked out perfectly when we gave it an inaugural run, when Rob came home from a full week of work travel.
The main benefit of this recipe is next to no real prep work. I just had to chop some fennel and mince garlic. Otherwise, I used some “cheat” ingredients like jarred pasta sauce. I do add some of my own flavor to the recipe, but after being out of town or a busy week I just do not always feel like making some ingredients by scratch.
Jarred pasta sauce is definitely my go-to store-bought cheat item. Growing up in Philly a lot of people would scoff at jarred sauce. A lot of people swore by family “gravy” recipes, which is a term I wont get started on; however, my family is super Irish so Ragu or Prego were common. Funny thing is, Rob, whose family is pretty Italian, grew up eating jarred sauce. At this point there are some honestly really good jarred sauces out on the market. I prefer Rao’s Tomato Herb, the base flavor and texture are really good to start from when I just don’t want to have to make something else.
In hind-sight for this recipe, I would add the cheese mixture to the meat sauce differently. I really stirred it in to the mixture instead of more clumps. It resulted in small cheese bits throughout the mix which I just didn’t like as much. Less mixing would have resulted in a more lasagna-scramble like dish with cheese pockets that pull more.
Skillet Baked Ziti
- 1.25 Lb Mild Italian Sausage
- 1 Lb Ziti
- 16 oz Jarred Pasta Sauce like Rao’s Tomato-Herb
- 1/2 Fennel Bulb or Yellow Onion finely diced
- 3 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1/2 Tsp Red Pepper Flake
- 1/2 Tsp Fennel Seed
- 1/4 Tsp Oregano
- 1/4 Tsp Thyme
- 1 Cup Ricotta
- 1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400F
- Cook the pasta slightly less than the package says in salted water, probably abut 1.5-2 minutes less than normal. Start when the meat is done and you add the sauce.
- Heat a 1 Tbs olive oil in a skillet or saute pan over medium heat.
- Add the fennel or onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes.
- Add the garlic and spices and cook for an additional minute.
- Add the sausage and cook for about 8 minutes.
- Add the jarred sauce and allow to reduce while the pasta cooks.
- Combine the mozzarella and ricotta. Reserve half to top.
- Stir the pasta into the sauce. Gently fold half the cheese mixture into, be careful to not stir it in, you want pockets of cheese.
- Top the whole thing with a light layer of the remaining cheese mix.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Top with parsley.