Sausage Pepper Ziti (A Make Ahead Meal)

If you saw my post on Friday then you knew that we were having Sausage Pepper Ziti this week. Well, tonight was the night, however, when the time came to get things cooking, I couldn’t find my recipe. I realized… I’ve made this at least a dozen times, I don’t need the recipe! So, I made it, tweaked it, and I tell ya, it’s the best batch I’ve ever made. This happens to be Oscar’s favorite meal, so really, it was he who convinced me that this was, by far, the best yet.

 I have this terrible habit of creating yummy foods and NOT writing down what I did!! I really could kick myself sometimes. However, this time, I will forgo the kicking because I know I got it all down!


I just love his fake smile. 🙂
And guess what?! I actually remembered to take pictures of the process!!
Garlic and onion in olive oil until onions are tender.
Add your sausage – yeah, that’s not pretty
This is one of my favorite spice mixes. It’s got yummy flavors, fantastic aroma AND there’s nothing crazy in it.
Once the meat is browned, add the peppers. Those are all sweet peppers, just different pretty colors. 🙂
After about 5 minutes, add the mushrooms
This is Caroline coloring. She was so hungry, she just had to be in her high chair. So, she watched mama cook.
Add the tomatoes.. another not pretty picture. I seriously considered skipping his one.
Combine pasta and meat mixture.
Separate into two pans (YES, this recipe makes enough for TWO meals)
Cover with some cheese. Pop one in the oven and let the other cool and put it in the freezer for another day.
And Voila! I put mine under the broiler for a couple minutes to brown the cheese. I’m a big fan of browned cheese.
Can you tell?
And there it is… sliding off Oscar’s plate.
1/2 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3+ teaspoons of Italian Seasoning ( I add a dash or two of this after adding each item)
1 lb Italian sausage
2 large or 3 medium sweet peppers- about 2 cups chopped
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
15oz can stewed tomatoes
6 oz can tomato paste
1 Tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (the cheap stuff- not grated)
1 pound of pasta, cooked
4 cups of mozzarella cheese (I’m guessing here, I put two handfuls on each pan)
1. Sauté onion and garlic in a pan with the olive oil until the onions are soft- about 5-7 minutes.
2. Add 1 tsp Italian seasoning and sausage.
3. Cooked until browned. I drain most of the juice off, but keep some for flavor.
4. Add another 1tsp of Italian seasoning and the peppers.
5. Cook 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cook 5 minutes more or until the veg is tender-crisp. (not raw, not mushy)
6. Add all the tomatoes, don’t drain them!
7. Give it a couple more shakes of Italian seasoning and add the salt, pepper, sugar, red pepper flakes and parmesan.
8. Stir it really well and let it simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered.
9. Combine pasta and meat/veg mixture together- you will need a BIG pot or bowl to do this in!
This recipe makes enough to fill two foil pans– the half size, or one whole. The half pans measure just shy of the standard 9×13 and are about 2″ deep. I love these pans. I use them for all my oven cooking that doesn’t involve company. And of course, my freezer meals. Can we say easy clean up?
10. Anyway, grease your pans. Divide the mixture and top with mozzarella.
11. Pop one in the over for about 30 minutes on 350. Then broil it until the cheese is brown- timing will depend on your broiler, so keep an eye on it! My oven is gas and it took about 8 minutes.
To freeze: let it cool to room temperature, cover, mark it and put it in the freezer.
To reheat: you have two options here… If you think ahead, let it thaw in the refrigerator. Bake on 350 for 30 minutes covered, 20 minutes uncovered. If you are like me and DON’T always think ahead, Bake on 350 for about 70 minutes covered, then 20-25 uncovered.
Occasionally, I forget to prep Sunday dinner on Saturday.
When this happens, I do this: Sunday morning, before we leave for church, I will pull a casserole (or pasta like this) from the freezer and put it into the oven at 200 degrees. When we get home, the meal is ready to eat. We leave around 8:15 and get home about 12:30. If you aren’t comfortable with your oven, don’t do this! It’s not for everyone, I know, but it works for us. 🙂
Do you have any tips to avoid the hungry-family-frenzy-rage and keep Sunday dinners rolling smoothly?

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