This is not exactly a gourmet dish, but it is one my favorites, and it’s pretty simple to make. Cheesy, chewy, crispy, heavenly, this baked ziti has a couple of nonstandard ingredients that should bring big smiles to your table. I’ve gone pretty light on the herbs in this recipe, which allows the flavors of the cheeses to really stand out. So use the best ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses you can find; it’ll be worth it, I promise.
1 pound ziti
1 teaspoon + 2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
8 cloves garlic, half thinly sliced and half pressed
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, pureed in food processor
1 cup chopped mixed olives
2 teaspoons sugar
12 ounces smoked andouille or other smoked sausage, cut into half-moons
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch
1 pound mozzarella, grated
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1-1/2 pounds ricotta
1-1/2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
Cook ziti until al dente and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil in large bowl.
Sauté onions & celery in 2 tablespoons olive oil until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add pureed tomatoes, olives, & sugar, raise heat to medium, bring to simmer, cover, lower heat, and cook for 15 minutes.
While sauce cooks, sear sausage over high heat in 12-inch nonstick skillet, about 4 minutes. Move sausage to large bowl & toss with cooked pasta. Add mushrooms and 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet and cook over high heat until golden, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms to large bowl with sausage & pasta. Add mozzarella & parsley to large bowl and toss well. Whisk eggs in medium bowl, add ricotta & parsley & pressed garlic & a few grinds of black pepper and stir until combined.
Spoon 2 cups tomato sauce into 13×9-inch glass baking dish and shake to cover bottom evenly. Spoon half of pasta mixture evenly over sauce. Carefully spread ricotta mixture to cover pasta. Spoon remaining pasta over ricotta. Cover pasta with remaining tomato sauce, then cover sauce with Parmesan cheese.
Bake in 375º oven until contents are bubbling and top is nicely browned, about 45- 50 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then serve.