The secret of million dollar anything (Million Dollar Spaghetti, Million Dollar Ravioli, etc) is that it uses cream cheese to make for an extra indulgent, creamy recipe. And that’s just what’s happening here with our Million Dollar Baked Ziti… It has everything wonderful that a traditional baked ziti does, but it also brings an irresistibly creamy layer to the party. And bonus? It’s just as easy to make as the original.
We’re starting with a quick, meaty tomato sauce. Could you use jarred marinara? Sure. But this sauce is very fast and easy, and the flavor is hard to beat. Just brown up some Italian sausage, and then stir in some garlic, oregano, basil, and diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce and let it all simmer for just about ten minutes.
Stir in some sugar and fresh basil and voila, you’ve got a sauce that no jarred version can hope to compete with. What makes this a “million dollar” ziti is that you then take some of that sauce and mix it with cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, and a couple of eggs to bind it all together.
1 lb ziti
1 lb mild Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
8 oz cream cheese, softened
16 oz cottage cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, freshly grated and divided
2 cups mozzarella cheese, chopped into 1/4-inch cubes and divided
Fresh basil, chopped, for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375°F and grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Set aside.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta 2 minutes less than package instructions call for. Drain and drizzle with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.
In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium high heat until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain fat, if needed.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add oregano, basil, and season with salt and pepper.
Stir in tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Lower heat to medium and cook until mixture bubbles. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in sugar and fresh basil. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs, cottage cheese, and sour cream and mix until well combined. Stir in 1 cup of the Parmesan and 1 cup of the mozzarella.
Add 1 cup of the red sauce and the drained pasta to cottage cheese mixture and stir to combine. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
Top with remaining red sauce, followed by the remaining 1 cup mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmesan.
Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with nonstick spray and cover casserole. Bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake 25 minutes more. If desired, broil 1 to 2 minutes to brown cheese further.
Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Top with chopped basil and enjoy!