May and June are the month’s of birthdays in our family. One of the most requested dishes for our children’s birthday dinners are lasagna or baked ziti. My friend Sheri has the most amazing recipe for baked ziti. The best part about it is it comes together in under 30 minutes and has a delicious homemade spaghetti sauce. Add fresh basil and parsley from your herb garden and this dish is incredibly flavorful and fresh tasting. If you need a quick, weeknight meal that seems like you slaved all day over, this is the one! Your family is sure to love it–cheese, sauce, meat, garlic…could it get any better than this?!

Baked Ziti
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 red or yellow onion, diced small
  2. 3 cloves garlic, minced small
  3. 1 Tbls. olive oil
  4. 1 lb. spicy pork sausage (optional)
  5. 3 cans diced or crushed tomatoes, with juices
  6. 2 Tbls. fresh basil, chopped
  7. 1 tsp. sugar
  8. 1 t. Italian seasoning
  9. 1/2 tsp. salt
  10. 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  11. 1 lb. ziti pasta
  12. 2 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  13. 1/4-1/2 c. parmesan cheese
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Instructions
  1. Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil in a hot saute pan. Saute until the garlic and onions become fragrant. Careful not to burn, but let come to a medium high heat.Then add the sausage.
  2. Saute and ground the pork sausage until cooked through and is in small pieces.
  3. To this same pan, add the diced tomatoes, fresh basil, sugar, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
  4. Continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce cooks down and becomes more thick. While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta in a large soup pot of boiling water. Boil until noodles are al dente and then drain. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce pan (or visa versa if one is not large enough). Stir the noodles into the sauce.
  5. Place half of the noodles covered in sauce in a 9x13 pan. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese on top of the noodles. Add the rest of the pasta and then cover with the extra mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Top with more fresh basil and bake 400 for 15-20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbly.
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