Baked ziti casserole

It’s heaven. It’s comfort food. It’s Sunday supper. It’s love in a casserole.

I just can’t say enough about this recipe.

Given to me a few years ago by Scottsdale resident Fern Klaussen, it has become one of my very favorite casseroles. If you love baked ziti, wait until you’ve had it enrobed in pesto sauce and loaded up with ricotta and mozzarella cheese.

It’s the perfect make-ahead dish for holiday company or supper with the family.


1-pound ziti or penne pasta

1-pound spicy Italian sausage (ground beef can be substituted)

2 (28-ounce) jars pasta sauce

1/2 cup pesto

1 (15 oz.) container whole milk ricotta cheese, about one cup

1 (8 oz.) package shredded mozzarella cheese (or fresh mozzarella balls, shredded) about 2 cups

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare an approximately 13x11 inch casserole pan with cooking spray.

Cook pasta al dente (cooked but still firm). Drain (do not rinse) and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the pesto sauce to the cooked pasta and mix well. Set aside.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook sausage until browned. (If in links, remove casings and cook.) Add pasta sauce and mix well.

In a bowl, mix together ricotta cheese and half of the shredded mozzarella.

To assemble:

Ladle one third of the pasta sauce on bottom of prepared pan. Add a layer of pesto pasta. Spoon ricotta and cheese mixture over pasta. Repeat layers, ending with sauce. Top with remainder of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes or until bubbly. Remove foil for last 5 minutes of cooking.

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