This recipe was adapted from the Mix & Match Baked Pasta article featured in the March issue of the Food Network magazine:
Baked Ziti with Hot Italian Sausage & Sauteed Zucchini
1 lb penne pasta
1 lb hot Italian sausage, cooked & crumbled
Extra virgin olive oil
4 zucchini, sliced and sauteed
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 cans of diced tomatoes
1 cup water
4 sprigs of basil
1 15 oz container of ricotta
3 cups shredded mozzarella or asiago cheese
1 cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 450. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil; cook 1 pound of pasta until very al dente, 3 minutes less than the label directs; drain. Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.
Saute your zucchini in olive oil and set aside. Cook your sausage, drain, set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes; cook until the garlic is golden, just a few minutes. Add the diced tomatoes & water into the skillet. Add the basil; simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened, about 20-25 minutes. Discard the basil; season the sauce with salt. (you could also just use 4 cups prepared sauce and skip this step.
Toss the ricotta, zucchini, & sausage into the sauce and stir until the ricotta has incorporated itself into the sauce. Toss the cooked pasta and half of each cheese into the sauce. Turn the mixture into a greased casserole dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, until browned, about 20-25 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.