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Million Dollar Baked Ziti

Million Dollar Baked Ziti: A Flavorful Twist on a Classic Comfort Food

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Get ready to indulge in the ultimate comfort food experience with our Million Dollar Baked Ziti recipe! Bursting with savory Italian sausage, rich tomato sauce, and creamy cheeses, this dish is sure to become a family favorite. Whether you’re hosting a cozy dinner at home or looking for a crowd-pleasing dish for your next gathering, this Million Dollar Baked Ziti is guaranteed to impress. Join us as we dive into the ingredients, instructions, cook notes, variations, and even keto and low-carb versions of this mouthwatering recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ziti
  • 1 lb mild Italian sausage
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 16 oz cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, freshly grated and divided
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, chopped into 1/4-inch cubes and divided
  • Fresh basil, chopped, for serving
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the Oven:
    • Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Cook the Ziti:
    • Cook the ziti according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  3. Prepare the Sauce:
    • In a large skillet, cook the mild Italian sausage over medium heat until browned and cooked through, breaking it up into crumbles with a spoon as it cooks.
    • Add the minced garlic, dried oregano, and dried basil to the skillet. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant.
    • Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and granulated sugar. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together. Remove from heat and stir in the fresh chopped basil.
  4. Prepare the Cheese Mixture:
    • In a large mixing bowl, combine the softened cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs, and 1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Mix until smooth and well combined.
  5. Assemble the Baked Ziti:
    • In the prepared baking dish, layer half of the cooked ziti on the bottom. Top with half of the tomato sauce mixture, followed by half of the cheese mixture. Sprinkle half of the chopped mozzarella cheese over the top.
    • Repeat the layers with the remaining ziti, tomato sauce, cheese mixture, and mozzarella cheese.
  6. Bake Until Bubbly:
    • Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
    • Remove the foil and continue baking for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  7. Serve and Enjoy:
    • Remove the baked ziti from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.
    • Garnish with freshly chopped basil, if desired.
    • Serve hot and enjoy the rich, comforting flavors of Million Dollar Baked Ziti!

Cook Notes and Variations:

  • Vegetarian Option: Omit the Italian sausage for a vegetarian version of this dish. You can add extra vegetables such as diced bell peppers, mushrooms, or spinach for added flavor and nutrients.
  • Meat Lover’s Variation: Feel free to use a combination of ground beef, Italian sausage, and pepperoni for a meat lover’s twist on this classic recipe.
  • Spice It Up: Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to the sauce for a spicy kick.

Keto and Low-Carb Versions:

  • Keto Version: Substitute the ziti pasta with spiralized zucchini noodles or shirataki noodles to reduce the carb content. Replace the granulated sugar with a keto-friendly sweetener such as erythritol or stevia.
  • Low-Carb Version: Follow the keto substitutions mentioned above and ensure that all other ingredients used are low in carbohydrates. Adjust the portion sizes of cheese and dairy products to fit your low-carb macros.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q: Can I use a different type of pasta for this recipe? A: Yes, you can use any short pasta shape such as penne, rigatoni, or rotini in place of ziti.

Q: Can I prepare this dish in advance? A: Absolutely! You can assemble the baked ziti ahead of time and refrigerate it until ready to bake. Simply cover tightly with aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before baking.

Q: Can I freeze leftovers of Million Dollar Baked Ziti? A: Yes, this dish freezes well! Allow the baked ziti to cool completely, then transfer it to an airtight container or freezer-safe dish. Freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake in the oven until heated through.

Q: Can I use different types of cheese in this recipe? A: Absolutely! Feel free to experiment with different cheese blends such as provolone, fontina, or asiago for a unique flavor profile.

Treat your taste buds to the ultimate comfort food experience with our Million Dollar Baked Ziti recipe. With its savory Italian sausage, rich tomato sauce, and creamy cheese mixture, this dish is sure to become a staple in your recipe repertoire. Whether enjoyed for a cozy family dinner or shared at a potluck gathering, this Million Dollar Baked Ziti is guaranteed to impress with its irresistible flavors and hearty texture. So, gather your ingredients and get ready to savor every delicious bite of this mouthwatering dish!

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