Baked Ziti with Hot Italian Sausage
As noted in the post, the first time I made this, I made many substitutions: I only had a little bit of crème fraîche, so I made up the difference with heavy cream. I had a mix of Swiss chard and kale on hand, so I used those in place of the baby spinach. I even used vegan chorizo in place of hot Italian sausage. This is definitely a recipe that lends itself to improvising. I think you could definitely leave out the sausage if you wanted to make it vegetarian.
1 cup Ricotta Cheese
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
to taste Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 clove Garlic
1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 Tbsp Fresh Oregano
1 lb Sweet Italian Sausage
28 oz San Marzano Tomatoes
1 box Ziti Pasta
5 oz Chard
3/4 lb Mozzarella Cheese
2 Tbsp Salt
In a large bowl, combine the Ricotta Cheese, Heavy Cream, Egg, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Season with Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper and set aside.
Heat the Olive Oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add theOnion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the Garlic.
Add the Sweet Italian Sausage and cook until browned, breaking up the meat with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the San Marzano Tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Season to taste with Fresh Oregano, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add Salt and return to a rolling boil. Add the Ziti Pasta and cook for 4 minutes short of al dente according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.
Add the Chard to the sauce with 1/2 cup pasta water, stirring until it wilts. Remove from the heat. Stir half of the sauce into the ricotta mixture. Add the pasta and toss together to coat.
Pour the pasta into a 9x13-inch baking dish. Top with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the Mozzarella Cheese and remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top and bake until the cheese starts bubbling, about 20 minutes.
Set the oven to broil and broil until the ricotta cheese and pasta are browned in spots, about 5 minutes more.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!