BAKED ZITI WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE, MOZZARELLA AND PARMESAN - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

BAKED ZITI WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE, MOZZARELLA AND PARMESAN

BE YOUR OWN PERSONAL CHEF: COOK ONCE, EAT TWICE!

BAKED ZITI WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE, MOZZARELLA AND PARMESAN

Rita Nader Heikenfeld, Home / Culinary Expert, The Great Indoors Cooking School

Personal chefs are "hot" right now. They come into your home and cook you wonderful meals that are oven ready. Well, you can be your own personal chef with this popular dish.

If you don't have Ricotta, just leave it out or use cottage cheese. This dish reheats so well and is a good lunch to tote. This is a wonderful meal to serve if you're just starting to learn to cook, because the ingredients are simple and the casserole is easy to assemble.

Now the cook once, eat twice part comes in because you can also divide the casserole between two smaller pans and freeze one for later. Just microwave or reheat in a 350 degree oven, tented with foil, until hot. This is the way to go if you're serving four people or less.

If you're vegetarian, use the soy "sausage" or turkey sausage.

Stir in a handful or two of fresh greens into the pasta sauce before pouring on to the pasta.

I like the creaminess the Ricotta gives, but you can leave it out. A crisp salad of hearty greens and garlic bread is all you need to round out this dish.

Feel free to divide this recipe in half or even double it.

2 cups Ricotta cheese

8 ozs. sliced mushrooms (opt)

1 pound Italian sausage

12-16 ozs. ziti or other short pasta shapes, cooked

4 -5 cups favorite pasta sauce

3 cups shredded Mozzarella (or more if you're a real "cheesy" person!) Generous amount of Parmesan for sprinkling on top

To bake in oven: Spray a 9x13 baking dish. Saute sausage and mushrooms together and drain any grease. Spread Ricotta evenly on bottom of baking dish. Sprinkle with sausage/mushroom mixture. Pour pasta over. Pour sauce over pasta. Sprinkle with cheese. Make a tent of foil and cover. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven until heated through, about 30-40 minutes.

To cook in microwave: May be cooked in microwave on medium high power about 20 minutes, covered, or until heated through. Don't add the mozzarella if cooking in the microwave until the last 10 minutes or so.

Before serving, sprinkle generously with Parmesan.

Serves 8-10 in 9x13 or 4-5 in two smaller casseroles.

TIPS FROM RITA'S LAZARUS-MACY'S AND RIDGE MARKET KITCHENS: PERFECT PASTA EVERY TIME!

Boil pasta in plenty of salted water (the salt seasons the pasta from the inside out) in a large pot (we have stockpots in sizes ranging from 6 quart to 20 quart at Lazarus) and don't add oil unless you plan to use it in a cold pasta salad. Oil keeps the sauce from clinging to the pasta.

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