When you think of baked ziti, it’s always marinara and mozz. You’d be amazed at what a difference switching to pesto can make. It’s still the same process of opening up a jar of store-bought sauce…the only difference is the sauce being green instead of red.
Cook up 1/2 a box of ziti (this recipe should probably fill a 2 qt. dish and serve 4-6). It will take about 9 minutes to cook, which is exactly how much time you’ll need to get everything else prepped. Slice up three links of pre-cooked chicken sausage. Just about any flavor will work except the jalapeno type ones. If you want yours to be on the meatier side, slice up all four sausages in the pack, I won’t judge. To the bowl, add grated mozzarella. I grated a ball of fresh mozz and I like to think it made a difference, but who really knows these things. When the pasta is ready, toss it with the sausage, mozz, and pesto sauce to taste. Pour it all into the casserole dish and then top with a mixture of melted butter, panko breadcrumbs, and grated parmesan or asiago. Stick it in a 325 oven for about 30 minutes, til you see the breadcrumbs start to brown.
I didn’t put a ton of mozzerella in there so mine wasn’t as glued together as it could have been, but that’s because I just wasn’t feeling an extra cheesy dish that night. More mozz = more glue. The reason baked ziti is one of the most popular Italian side dishes is because it is so simple to throw together. This version is just as simple but a little less predictable. Also, adding sausage makes it appropriate for a full meal instead of just a side.