What is your kids’ favorite dinner dish?
For my boys their go to favorite meal that I make is ziti. They absolutely love it, so much so that I often double the recipe so there’s always a batch of ziti for a night that we’re on the run or I’m away. Recently, I was invited to introduce Johnsonville® Italian Sausage into a pasta dinner dish for my family as part of Italian-American Heritage Month.
As part of this influencer/blogger campaign, Johnsonville sent us this incredible Johnsonville Italian meal kit. Never have I gotten a package with so much fresh food delivered at once. As I opened the box with a special cooler bag, I could not believe how fresh all the ingredients were. The spinach and broccoli rabe were vibrant green. The tomato was bright red with a perfectly smooth skin. There were packages of Johnsonville Fresh Mild Ground Sausage and Johnsonville Fresh Italian Sweet Ground Sausage. And if all those flavors weren’t enough, Johnsonville also included baby Bella mushrooms, roasted diced tomatoes, roasted tomato sauce, a can of tomato paste, fresh garlic, Parmesan cheese, pasta, and more. It was all the flavors and ingredients I needed to get started on a healthy pasta dinner for my family. They even included recipe cards for Rigatoni Salsiccia e Rapini and Spinach Cheese Tortellini with Italian Sausage. In fact with all these ingredients I could have made both dinners.
While Johnsonville has a great variety of recipes on their site like the Spinach Cheese Tortellini with Italian Sausage and Italian Sausage Rigatoni, I went with making our ziti with sausage and several of the fresh ingredients Johnsonville sent us. Knowing my boys enjoy Johnsonville’s flavor-filled sausage and LOVE ziti, I knew I couldn’t go wrong. Those additional flavors added some extra zing to our ziti with sausage recipe. It was a delicious mix of the new fresh flavors with the still traditional look and feel of a classic ziti.
Our How to Make Ziti with Sausage Recipe that your kids will love
Ziti with Sausage Recipe Ingredients
- ½ cup – ¾ cup of ziti
- 1 pound of Johnsonville All Natural Fresh Italian Sweet Ground Sausage
- 3 cups of pasta sauce
- 15 oz of ricotta cheese
- 2 cups – 2 ½ cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
- grated Parmesan cheese
- fresh spinach to secretly replace parsley
- 1 Tomato
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup of baby Bella mushrooms
Ziti with Sausage Recipe Prep & Cooking Times
- Prep time is 30 minutes. Some prep work can be done simultaneously.
- Cooking time is 15 – 20 minutes when using ramekins like we did. Allow yourself 25-30 minutes if cooking in a 13x9x2 inch pan or larger.
Ziti with Sausage Recipe prep work
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Cook the ziti according to the package directions. Then drain and sit aside.
- Chop the spinach finely enough that it resembles parsley, this will allow you to add it in with the ziti as a secret ingredient.
- Dice a tomato into small pieces.
- Finely chop the mushrooms. If you’re using the mushrooms as another secret ingredient, I recommend cutting it finely like we did below.
Ziti with Sausage Recipe Steps
- Brown the Johnsonville All Natural Fresh Italian Sweet Ground Sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. Keep in mind you will want to use a skillet large enough to accommodate the sausage, pasta, and pasta sauce. Gently move around the sausage with a spatula breaking the ground sausage into smaller pieces while avoiding overcooking any meat.
- Once your Johnsonville ground sausage has cooked add in the pasta sauce, chopped tomato, and half of your chopped spinach. Stir your mixture before allowing it to simmer for 10 minutes.
- While the sausage and sauce are simmering, prepare your cheese mixture. Mix the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, the other half of your chopped spinach, salt, pepper, and the baby Bella mushrooms together in a large bowl. This is a great step for kids to help out with. My 8 year old loves pouring ingredients in.
- After the sausage and sauce have simmered, add the ziti noodles to your meat sauce.
- Prepare the dish or ramekins you will using for baking your ziti with sausage. You’ll want them as close as possible to your pasta bowl and cheese mixture bowl to avoid having too many messes. I usually have the pasta on the right and the cheese mixture on the left.
- Layer each ramekin or your baking dish with one layer of your pasta and meat sauce mixture. Since we’ve increased our quantities of ingredients compared to a typical ziti recipe, you should have plenty to cover the bottom layer of your cooking dishes.
- Divide your cheese mixture between your baking dishes. My son helped with this step by dropping a large dollop of the cheese mixture into each ramekin. I then used the back of the spoon to spread out the mixture. If you are using a large cooking dish, the step would be the same. However, you’ll want to evenly space out how you drop the cheese mixture so that it spreads evenly like below over the first ziti layer.
- Top the cheese layer with another layer of ziti noodles with the sausage meat sauce.
- Use the remaining mozzarella cheese to sprinkle over each ramekin or your baking dish. Next, gently sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese. A tip, I hold my hand vertical against the side of the dish while sprinkling with the other hand. It helps me to avoid making too much of a mess.
- You’re ready to cook. If baking this ziti with sausage recipe in ramekins, I suggest placing them all on a cookie sheet to help with transferring them in and out of the oven. If cooking this ziti with sausage in a large baking dish, cover it loosely with aluminum foil to avoid the noodles on the outer edge of the pan from getting overcooked.
- Bake your ziti with sausage recipe for 15 – 20 minutes if using ramekins or 25 – 30 minutes if using a large baking dish.
My boys positively loved this ziti makeover. They appreciated the new flavors without recognizing that I had sneaked in spinach and mushrooms. The dinner got a two thumbs up from my little guy.
Cooking our favorite ziti recipe with Johnsonville’s All Natural Fresh Italian Sweet Ground Sausage was certainly a win for our family. Did you know what it means to have Johnsonville sausage made the Johnsonville Way? It means behind every package of Johnsonville’s sausage is a team dedicated to creating the best sausage in America with choice cuts of meat and a variety of flavors and spices mixed in. My kids definitely enjoyed these new flavors in their classic ziti.
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What pasta dish or recipe can you makeover with Johnsonville® sausage?
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Johnsonville . The opinions and text are all mine.