This recipe for Spicy Sausage Baked Ziti will leave you speechless. And with hot lips. And your family will love you. More. Also known as the “Hot Ziti”, there is a terrific little Italian restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina that serves a great Hot Ziti dish.
Giovanni’s Italian Restaurant, located at 1178 Woodruff Rd, Ste 4, Greenville, SC 29607, is a small but very charming and very well done “mom and pop” shop front Italian restaurant that gets as close to the New York “mom and pop” Italian restaurant as you can get without actually being in New York. It is small, so you may have to wait a bit for a table at dinner time, but I’d say it is worth it.
If you go to Giovanni’s, their Spicy Sausage Baked Ziti would be my recommendation hands down. If you want to try it at home, here is how I would make it. Your taste buds will love you if you treat them to this dish. Again, you have your perfectly cooked ziti pasta with the spicy sausage married to a delicious spicy red sauce, and then the gobs and gobs of melt-y ricotta and mozzarella cheese goodness. You’re welcome for sharing this recipe.
Be sure to be careful with how many habaneros you add to the dish. Habaneros are much hotter than jalepenos. My suggestion is to err on the side of not putting enough at first, as you can always add some additional seeds or flesh later if you feel the sauce needs more heat. Also with the habaneros you should take off the skin before adding to the recipe. You can do this by quick-roasting the peppers, letting them cool off in a sealed container, and then peeling. You should wear gloves while cutting these hot little peppers. Getting the capsaicin oil on your skin can be uncomfortable, not to mention accidentally rubbing it into your eyes. So be careful while handling these peppers.
This is how I do the Spicy Sausage Baked Ziti dish:
- 6 cups whole peeled plum tomatoes (2 cans)
- ½ pound spicy Italian sausage (no casings, just the ground beef inside)
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium sweet onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon chopped basil leaves
- ½ cup Italian red wine (Chianti works!)
- 5 habanero peppers, chopped
- crushed red paper flakes
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
- 1 egg
- ½ tablespoon garlic powder
- ½ tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
- ½ teaspoon fresh oregano
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1½ lbs ziti pasta
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese for topping the dish
- Parsley for garnish
- Pecorino Romano cheese to taste
- In a large sauce pot, saute ¾ of the onions in the butter for five minutes.
- Add the garlic. Saute five more minutes.
- Add tomatoes. After 5-10 minutes, chop the tomatoes in the pot. Simmer for 30 minutes total. Be sure to keep the mixture mixed so it doesn’t stick to the pot or to itself.
- While the tomatoes are simmering, in a separate pan saute the remaining onions in the remaining butter for five minutes and then add the sausage and about half of your chopped habanero. Once the sausage has browned sufficiently, add the red wine and deglaze the pan.
- After 30 minutes, pass the sautéed tomato mixture through a food mill or puree in a blender.
- Move the pureed mixture back to the sauce pot. Add the cooked sausage and 1 teaspoon of the basil. Simmer for 20 more minutes.
- Test the heat of the sauce. It should be there, but be not quite overwhelming. If you want it a bit spicier, add some more of your chopped habanero and some red pepper.
- Correct the salt and pepper seasoning.
- Mix the ricotta cheese in a large mixing bowl with the egg, the Pecorino-Romano, the garlic powder, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Mix well by hand to get a good uniform distribution throughout the cheese.
- Boil the pasta in salted water until just before al dente.
- Put the pasta back into the pot over low heat.
- Add the reserved pasta water to uniformly coat the pasta.
- Dress the pasta with the sauce and sausage.
- Stir the pasta well, allowing each noodle to be coated with the sauce and the sausage to evenly disburse.
- Turn out the pasta into a large baking pan. Add the ricotta mixture to the pasta and mix it well. Top the pasta with the remaining 2 cups of mozzarella and cover with foil.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the foil. Bake for another 15 minutes or until the cheese has become nice and melty.
- Garnish with some parsley and Pecorino Romano cheese and serve.