Once the weather cools down, I grab the cozy sweaters and prepare the comfort food, like this classic baked Ziti. It is rich and sticky with its layers of pasta, its homemade red sauce with Italian sausage and its three types of melted cheese. Total comfort in a bowl. And the best part is that baked Ziti is not difficult. You don’t have to worry about delicate leafy noodles or making your layers perfect. This is freeform, messy goodness at its best!

CAN I USE ANOTHER FORM OF PASTA?

If you can’t find Ziti (a smooth, tubular dough), you can replace Penne or Rigatoni in this recipe. Rigatoni is most similar to Ziti, the only difference is that it has a crest and is slightly shorter and wider.

CAN I ADD BAKED ZITI VEGETABLES?

Yes! I almost always add extra vegetables to everything I cook, but today I opted for the classic form of baked Ziti. If I added vegetables, I would probably add fresh spinach to the Sauce and stir until wilted. Or grill broccoli, zucchini or eggplant, then mix them with the Sauce.

CAN I REPLACE THE SAUSAGE?

Italian sausage adds a lot of flavor to this dish, but there are still a few ways to replace sausage. You can use ground beef, turkey or chicken, but you will probably want to double the Italian spice mixture to balance the herbs present in the Italian sausage. You can also use a vegetarian alternative to Italian sausage or replace it with a Pound of chopped mushrooms.

WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH BAKED ZITI?

Homemade garlic bread goes very well with baked Ziti, but if you want vegetables with it, I would have something like frozen oven-roasted broccoli or a simple side salad with it.

HOW TO STORE LEFTOVERS

These baked Ziti are stored in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. I highly recommend dividing the leftovers into individual portions so that they cool down quickly in the refrigerator. This recipe makes 8 large servings. Once the portions have completely cooled in the refrigerator, you can put some in the freezer for longer storage. Then each Serving is just a quick microwave away from being a hearty last-minute dinner!

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