This creamy sausage and sage baked ziti is rich and comforting and loved by ALL! I call this “white” baked ziti…

Here is a warm and comforting meal that will satisfy your taste buds as the weather changes and temperatures drop. You will love the ziti pasta with the sweet and mild Italian sausage with hints of fennel, flavored with fresh sage, drowned in beautiful heavy cream, then topped with a shredded mozzarella, and a parmigiano bread crumb mixture then baked until bubbly perfection. Yes, this rich meal is a bit of savory treat- so what? Mangia! (Eat!).

Baked Ziti Comfort Food

This is a meal worth adding to your fall and winter menu. If you can believe it, this meal is a much lighter version than most baked ziti recipes since it isn’t covered inside and out with pounds of cheese. You know what? It is actually more luxurious and enjoyable this way. Wait until you try it! Run to make this recipe. I promise you will come back to make it again. The added spinach greens adds a fresh touch that makes it even a little “extra extra”. Get ready to dive head first into this meal!

close up of baked ziti in the pan

The Perfect Baked Ziti

This baked ziti recipe is a little different that most American- style baked ziti recipes. Mainly, it doesn’t have 100 lbs of shredded cheese in the recipe or as a topping. This delicious creamy sausage baked ziti gets its richness from the cream and sausage and topping of aged parmigiano cheese and a bit of shredded mozzarella. The cream coats the pasta and the sausage and spinach get trapped inside the ziti pasta to create the perfects bite! The gorgeous parmigiano topping (hint: I add a little bit of bread crumbs for crunch) gives it the perfect cheesy coat without being overbearing. We call this “white” baked ziti since it doesn’t have a typical red meat sauce.

Trust me when I say, you won’t miss all that meat and cheese. These simple and delicate flavors stretch a long way to achieve a perfect balance of flavors and texture. I can’t wait for you to try this! This meal is absolutely decadent and delicious!

Is baked Ziti American or Italian?

In the traditional way that American’s make baked ziti with lots of cheese and loads of meat- it is a developed Italian- American recipe. As you might know it baked ziti is a pasta casserole-type dish baked with a variety of other ingredients, mostly chunky sauces, cheese, meat, and vegetables such as mushrooms, peppers, and onions. The dish is considered a hybrid of Italian and American cuisines, basically an Americanized variety of a typical Italian dish, pasta al forno, which is commonly compared to baked ziti.

This recipe is called “white baked ziti” since we leave out the red sauce and traditional beef meat.

How long to bake “baked ziti”

This baked ziti recipe doesn’t require a lot of baking time. You are really only baking it to get the cream to bubble and the cheese topping to crisp. The pasta is cooked separately and the cooked with the sauce a bit before baking.

creamy sausage baked ziti on a plate with a fork

How long should ziti rest?

I know, you want to dig into that how bubbly delicious casserole right away! Patience, it is worth the extra ten minutes of rest time. All the bubbly creamy juices need time to settle and bind together to make the dish extra tasty. Allowing the dish to hang out for five to ten minutes after cooking will give the sauce a chance to settle into the nooks and crannies of your pasta.

What does “Ziti” mean in Italian?

In Italian it means “Macaroni of the bride”

Ziti is short for maccheroni di zita, or “macaroni of the bride.” This comes from ziti’s popularity as part of a wedding buffet, particularly in Sicily and Southern Italy.

Ziti is an extruded pasta, originating in the Campania region of Italy. It is shaped into a long, wide tube that serves well with meat and cream based sauces.

Simple Ingredients to make this stellar baked ziti recipe

  • ziti pasta
  • onion
  • sage
  • mild Italian sausage
  • heavy cream
  • bread crumbs
  • hint of nutmeg
  • parmigiano

Can this baked ziti be made ahead of time?

Make ahead If you need to make it a day before using, refrigerate the assembled ziti meal before baking. Add about 10 minutes to the baking time if baking a refrigerated pan of ziti.

Leftovers …Oh yes! In fact, baked ziti tastes even better the longer it sets. If you assemble and bake the ziti ahead of time, it keeps in the fridge for about three days. To keep it longer, freeze it and reheat it before serving. Pasta should not be left to sit out in the open uncovered for more than two hours. Make sure to store your leftovers after your meal!

Can I freeze baked ziti?

This easy casserole can last for up to 5 months in the freezer if it’s tightly packaged. Freezer prior to baking for best results, but you can also freeze it after. Here is how:

Before it’s baked. Freezing the assembled baked ziti before it is baked helps maintain texture and prevents it from getting too soggy. After assembling the baked ziti in an oven safe pan, wrap the top with plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Then, write the date and freeze until ready to use! When you’re ready to use your frozen and assembled ziti, transfer it to the refrigerator and let it defrost overnight. Then, take it out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes while your oven preheats.
Pronto! Baked Ziti is ready!

After it’s baked. Make sure your baked ziti cools before freezing it. You can freeze the large part that is leftover or break it up into individual servings first. Transfer pieces into freezer-safe food containers or wrap the slices first in plastic wrap and then in foil, and store them in a freezer storage bag. To reheat the large or individual slices- simply remove the ziti’s freezer wrappings, cover the top with new foil and bake until heated through. You can also microwave it. That’s it! Lunch or dinner is ready on a busy day.

How to assemble baked ziti

baked ziti assembly process

This “white baked ziti” is a classic comfort food meal everyone loves. What’s not to love about a warm and creamy pasta dish casserole?

From my Cucina to Your Table. Mangia! Mangia! (Eat!)

Made with Amore, Elena

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close up of baked ziti in the pan
Print
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creamy sausage baked ziti on a plate with a fork

Creamy Sausage Baked Ziti “White Baked Ziti”

  • Author: Elena Davis
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Category: Savory
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

This creamy sausage sage baked ziti is rich and comforting and loved by ALL! We call this “white” baked ziti. Satisfy your taste buds as the weather changes and temperatures drop. You will love the ziti pasta with the sweet and mild Italian sausage with hints of fennel, flavored with fresh sage and drowned in beautiful heavy cream, then topped with a parmigiano bread crumb mixture and baked until bubbly perfection.  Yes, this rich meal is a bit of savory treat- so what? Mangia! (Eat!). You only live once and this is a meal worth adding to your fall and winter menu. If you can believe it, this meal is a much lighter version than most baked ziti since it isn’t covered inside and out with pounds of cheese. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 lb (453 g) ziti pasta
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmigiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups heavy cream + 1/4 for pouring on top
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese 
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley for topping 
  • butter for greasing pan

Instructions

  1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Grease a 9×13 in glass or oven safe pan with butter, set aside. In a small glass bowl combine parmigiano cheese and bread crumbs, stir to combine and set aside.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
  4. While waiting for the water to boil, cook the Italian sausage in a large skillet oven over medium-high heat until crumbly, browned, and no longer pink, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. In the same pan, on medium heat, stir in the onions, nutmeg, and sage; cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and add cream. Stir to combine.
  5.  Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente directions. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water. Add hot pasta and reserved pasta water to skillet with creamy sausage. Stir to combine. Add the creamy sausage ziti to the prepared baking dish and top shredded mozzarella and the parmigiano and bread crumb mixture. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup  cream evenly over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting. Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.  Mangia! (Eat!)

Keywords: sausage, baked ziti, cream sauce, baked pasta, main dish, Italian recipe