If you can imagine a combination of lasagna and spaghetti and meatballs, it would probably look something like this dish. If you like a bit of a kick, make it with spicy—not sweet—Italian sausage.
Make-ahead note: Prep this recipe through step 6 up to 2 days ahead.
- 12 ounces dried ziti pasta
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
- 1 pound fresh Italian sausage, casings removed, sausage meat pinched off in 1-inch pieces
- 16 ounces whole-milk ricotta
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded fresh mozzarella cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish.
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon of the the salt, the pepper, dried herbs, sugar, and tomatoes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer at least 20 minutes. Add the drained pasta and toss to coat evenly.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the sausage pieces, stirring very little so they keep their meatball shape, until golden brown and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain, then add to the pasta mixture.
- Mix the ricotta, egg, remaining 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and half of both cheeses.
- Spread half the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Dollop evenly with the ricotta mixture. Cover with the remaining pasta mixture. Sprinkle evenly with remaining cheeses.
- Bake until the mixture is bubbling and the cheese is melted, about 30 minutes.