Baked Ziti with Sausage is loaded with tasty Italian sausage, homemade sauce, and tender pasta—easy enough for a weeknight but good enough for a company dinner.
This cheesy Italian casserole is perfect for a comforting dinner during a cold evening.
Pasta—Penne, ziti, or similar
Mozzarella cheese—cube and shredded
Pantry ingredients—basil, salt, black pepper, oregano, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Featured Comment from Rachel:
"This is one of my favorite pasta dishes. What an excellent recipe."
Italian sausage baked ziti is a wonderful Italian comfort food that sticks to your bones. Easy to make at home with an excellent homemade marinara sauce.
It is super easy with these step-by-step photo instructions. Quick enough for a weeknight dinner or a company meal.
This is a modified version of my chicken marinara sauce. Mixed with cooked pasta and some mozzarella, and topped with more mozzarella. Bake. Done.
👨🍳How to Make Baked Ziti with Sausage
Preheat oven to 375°. Start your pasta immediately and cook to al dente per the package instructions.
Chop one medium onion.
In a large pan, add one pound of Italian sausage and the chopped onion—brown over medium-high heat. About 10 minutes, and in the last few minutes, add 2-3 cloves of minced or crushed garlic.
Add 28 oz. crushed tomatoes, 2 teaspoon basil, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional), ½ teaspoon oregano, and ¼ teaspoon sugar. Turn to low and simmer for a few minutes.
Cut 8 oz of mozzarella into ½ inch cubes.
Add the sauce to the pasta. Add the cubed mozzarella and 1 cup of shredded mozzarella. Mix well.
Add to a casserole pan and top with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella. A 9×13 inch rectangular casserole pan is good, or a 12-inch round works well too.
Bake at 375° until golden brown—about 30 minutes and an internal temperature of 160°.
For more details, keep reading. See the Recipe Card below for complete instructions and to print.
⬇️How to make this a "for two" friendly recipe
When you look at the amounts of various ingredients, they are standard-sized packages at the market: crushed tomatoes, Italian sausage, cheeses, and pasta. You can make it smaller and have extra ingredients or bigger and freeze leftovers.
The full recipe makes about 8 servings in a 9 by 13 casserole pan. Make a half recipe for 4 servings, more "cooking for two" friendly, in a 6 by 9 pan.
- Use the recipe card and adjust the number of servings to 4.
- Use the amount of ingredients in the ingredient list, not the instructions—those do not adjust.
- Use a 6 by 9, 8-inch square, or 9-inch round dish.
- Cook until browning well and bubbly edges—about 25 minutes and 160° internal temperature.
Options and variations
You can easily make it lasagna-like with globs of ricotta cheese and a good sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese. Mix ricotta: 1 cup (8 oz.) ricotta cheese with one egg white, ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, ½ teaspoon dry parsley, and ½ teaspoon salt—do not over-mix.
This uses pork sausage, but turkey sausage and ground beef can be used.
Baked ziti sealed in an airtight container is good refrigerated for 4 days and good frozen for 3-4 months. Reheat in the oven or microwave.
Baked ziti is a classic Italian American comfort food baked casserole dish. It is made with macaroni and combined with tomato sauce and cheese. It may include meat, sausage, mushrooms, peppers, onions, etc.
No, almost any pasta will do. Cook to al dente per the particular pasta instructions. I use Penne, a slightly smaller noodle with an angle cut, instead of straight cut edges of ziti noodles.
The purist will insist it is not baked ziti without ziti pasta. But you and I can call it anything we want. Ziti pasta is harder to find for me, and I like smaller pasta. So use what you like.
Yes, but read the instructions. You don't save any work. Mine is so much better and cheaper. Most of the simmering of the sauce is done while the casserole is baking in the oven.
Yes. You can assemble and refrigerate for a day or freeze for 3 months. To cook the frozen casserole, it will be easier to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, but you can bake it frozen but be sure the internal temperature reaches 160°,
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Easy Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 1 onion - medium chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic - crushed or minced
- 1 pound pasta - Penne, ziti, or similar
- 28 oz crushed tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons dry basil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper - optional
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 8 oz mozzarella - cubed ½ inch
- 8 oz mozzarella - shredded
- Preheat oven to 375°. Start your pasta immediately and cook to al dente per the package instructions.
- Chop one medium onion.
- In a large pan, add one pound of Italian sausage and the chopped onion—Brown over medium-high heat. About 10 minutes, and in the last few minutes, add 2-3 cloves of minced or crushed garlic.
- Add 28 oz. crushed tomatoes, 2 teaspoon basil, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional), ½ teaspoon oregano, and ¼ teaspoon sugar. Turn to low and simmer for a few minutes.
- Cut 8 oz of mozzarella into ½ inch cubes.
- Add the sauce to the pasta. Add the cubed mozzarella and 1 cup of shredded mozzarella. Mix well.
- Add to a casserole pan and top with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella. A 9×13 inch rectangular casserole pan is good, or a 12-inch round works well too.
- Bake at 375° until golden brown—about 30 minutes and an internal temperature of 160°.
Your Own Private Notes
- The quality of your ingredients is everything in Italian cooking. If you use generic ingredients, you will have generic results.
- Cook the pasta to al dente per the package instructions. Do not overcook. It cooks more in the oven.
- A 9×13-inch rectangular casserole pan is good, or a 12 inch round works well too.
- You can cut down the size, but you will have leftover ingredients. The recommended amounts are standard packages.
- This is good refrigerated for 3-4 days and good frozen for 3-4 months.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Editor's Note: Originally Published January 21, 2012. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.