There's a reason baked ziti is such a standby family supper. It's comforting, filling, and all-round delicious. In our ultimate version, the pasta is stirred into a sausage-studded tomato sauce, then layered, like lasagna, between nutmeg-scented béchamel sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano and mozzarella cheeses. 

Martha Stewart Living, January/February 2022

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Read the full recipe after the video.

Recipe Summary

total:
1 hr 45 mins
prep:
1 hr
Yield:
Serves 6 to 8
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Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Transfer whole peeled tomatoes (with their juices) to a large bowl and squeeze with your hands to break up; set aside. Heat oil in a pot over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, breaking up with the back of a spoon, until browned in places and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

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  • Add reserved crushed tomatoes to pot along with can of tomato sauce and 1/2 cup water (pour water into sauce can and swirl to catch any left inside). Season generously with salt and pepper; let simmer until flavors meld, skimming fat as needed, about 20 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°F. Cook pasta in a pot of salted boiling water about 5 minutes less than package instructions (so it still has some bite in the center and won't overcook in the oven). Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain and rinse noodles under cool water to stop cooking.

  • In now-empty pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until combined and lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until consistency is like slightly thickened cream, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt, nutmeg, and 1/3 cup Parmigiano. Press plastic wrap directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming.

  • In a large bowl, toss pasta with 3 cups tomato sauce, 1/2 cup Parmigiano, 1/2 cup reserved pasta water (or up to 1 cup, if sauce is very thick), and basil. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Spread half of bechamel in the bottom of a 3-to-3 1/2-quart baking dish. Top with half of pasta mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce, half of mozzarella, and 1/2 cup Parmigiano. Layer with remaining pasta and 1 cup tomato sauce.

  • Spoon the last of the bechamel evenly on top, followed by remaining mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmigiano; top with a few spoons of tomato sauce. Sprinkle with more Parmigiano. Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment (to catch spills).

  • Bake, uncovered, until browned in places and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes, top with more basil leaves, and serve.

Variations

To make a vegetarian version of this dish, sauté 1 pound chopped mushrooms and a pinch of fennel seeds in 1/4 cup oil and use in place of the sausage.

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