Make-Ahead Quick-Fix Casseroles

Recipe: Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage

Always have a casserole ready to go in the freezer for an easy weeknight meal. They're a cinch to make, freeze perfectly, and your family will be sure to love them!


Hi, I'm Christy Jordan. With quick fix suppers, you'll spend less time in the kitchen and more time around the table. So let's get started. By the time I get home from work, I am always so hungry. What are some ideas for some make-ahead meals? Pasta casseroles are the quintessential make-ahead dish. They're easy, filling, freeze like a dream, and most everyone loves pasta and cheese. Southern Living's baked ziti with Italian sausage is a great example of a recipe that you can put together on a Sunday for a quick meal later on in the week. To start with, I'm gonna show you how to make your own Italian seasoning. The ingredients are simple. We need some peppercorns, some oregano, some dried basil, and some crushed red pepper. All we're gonna do, is just throw them into our little mini chopper here. Now we're gonna put the lid on this. And just pulse it until they're well-combined and those peppercorns are crushed up good. [SOUND] And you know, what you don't use of this today, store it in a jar in your pantry to add that special flair next time you make an Italian dish. [SOUND] I'm gonna start with some Italian sausage that I've already removed the casings from, add this to a nice hot skillet, and then just chop it up and cook it for about eight to ten minutes until it's no longer pink in the centre. We've got a little bit of oil, I'm just gonna put that in the skillet and let that heat up, and then I'm gonna add some chopped onion and a little bit of minced garlic. Now I'm gonna stir this, and saute it, for two to three minutes, until my onion's nice and tender. [SOUND] Okay, my onion is nice and translucent, so now I'm gonna add that dry Italian seasoning I made. And I'm gonna let this cook for about a minute to really birng out those flavors. Now it's time to really make this a sauce. I'm gonna add some crushed tomatoes, some tomato sauce, and a little bit of water. Now what I'm gonna do is stir this up and bring it to a boil. Then I'm gonna reduce the heat and let is simmer for about 40, 45 minutes. I love the taste of this slow simmered sauce, but it's really not something I can pull off on a busy week night. So what I like to do is make it on the weekends, and then I can use it later for a quick and easy week night meal that has that slow simmered taste. My sauce is nice and thick now. It's really cooked down, and you can just smell all that wonderful flavour coming from it. So what I'm gonna do now to finish it off is add a little bit of salt and a little bit of honey. This will really bring out even more flavours, and the sweetness of the tomatoes. I'm just gonna stir that in. Now I'm gonna add my ziti. Other pastas that work great with heavy sauces like this are penne or macaroni. They really hold onto that sauce and deliver all the flavour in every bite. So I'm just gonna stir this in, and I'm also gonna add some mozzarella. Now I've got this all stirred up and ready to add to my casserole dish. If you wanna freeze this to eat later on in the week I have a really cool tip on how to do that. What I like to do is let my casserole mixture cool completely and then I put it in gallon zipper seal bags. I smooth them flat and I lay them in the freezer to freeze. Once they're frozen you can stake them up like books and the'll take up a lot less space in your freezer. They also thaw much quicker in the refrigerator that way and then you just pour in whatever dish you wanna bake it in. Okay, now I'm gonna put this in my casserole dish. And we're gonna add more mozzarella to the top. Ah,doesn't it look pretty already? Now, this goes in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Or until that cheese is good and melted. And here's the finished baked ziti. It smells heavenly. This is a delicious, classic casserole recipe. It's great to have on hand for a quick and easy week night meal. But it's also good if your kids have friends over or you get invited to a potluck. You'll be the star of the show. I hope you get to make this recipe soon. I know you're gonna love it. For more quick fix dinner ideas, pick up a copy of Southern Living magazine, and be sure you visit us online at
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