It’s December! Our tree is up, the pine-scented candles are burning, Michael Bublé is blasting – I’m in FULL-ON Christmas mode. Life with a toddler keeps you on your toes, but the pure joy of holidays (especially big ones like Christmas) is enough to make you forget about even the worst tantrums or the constant stream of “NO!” to leave their little mouths. I never realized how much kids would brighten the holidays – and once Eden is old enough to get into the spirit, we’ll have twice the spunk and twice the joy!
Along with joy, the holidays also bring some people a lot of stress. The parties, the presents, the activities – it’s a lot! So tis the season to get cozy with some easy and satisfying dinners.
And in the midst of cookie season, we also need some non-cookie sustenance this time of year.
Easy baked ziti, let’s get to it! Here are the basics: we cook up some italian sausage (I used a chicken variety), cook up the pasta and toss it with some sauce, and stir together ricotta, parmesan and milk. (The milk ensures that the mixture doesn’t get grainy during baking.)
Then we layer. A touch of sauce on the bottom of the pan so nothing sticks, then 1/2 of the pasta, sausage, and cheese mixture. Repeat and it’s ready for the oven.
No matter if your taste buds lean gourmet or picky – it’s a meal that the whole family will love on a chilly night. Serve with a green salad – it’s all this dinner needs! Well, that and wine. Because toddler.
- 16 oz raw chicken sausage
- 16 oz penne pasta
- 32 oz jar of marinara sauce
- 16 oz ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Remove casings from chicken sausage and cook over medium-high heat for about 3-4 minutes, until browned, breaking it up with the back of a spoon as you cook it.
- Cook pasta as directed, but remove from heat 2 minutes before done.
- Reserve 1 cup cooking water, and 1/2 cup marinara sauce.
- Drain pasta and toss with remaining marinara sauce.
- Spread the reserved 1/2 cup of marinara on the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish.
- Mix together ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and milk.
- Layer 1/2 of each: pasta, sausage, cheese mixture in baking dish. Repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with cheese mixture.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes.
- I like to estimate bigger portions when it comes to nutrition facts, so you could easily get 8 servings out of this dish, but I always think it’s better to have leftovers than not enough!
- Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water to use if marinara and pasta mixture is at all dry.
- Reserve 1/2 cup marinara sauce to prepare baking dish.
(Originally published December 4, 2014)