Rachel Ray Inspired Sausage Baked Ziti
We were inspired by the original Rachel Ray recipe (linked below) to create this dairy-free version of her Sausage Baked Ziti! This was a really cool thing to make as a family-friendly meal prep dish, as it makes a lot of leftovers (our favorite). We also found that after making the dish, it ended up tasting better if you mixed the bechamel, cheeses, and tomato sauce together and then baked it, as everything combined better, but it’s simply a taste preference for us there. Try it either way and let us know which way you prefer in the comments below!
- 1 lb Ziti or other shaped pasta
- 1 lb Italian sausage (*optional)
- 1 c Lisanatti Foods Almond-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1/2 c VioLife's Just like Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1/2 c Asiago cheese, shredded (optional)
Pasta Sauce & Veggies:
- 28 oz Whole peeled tomatoes (one can)
- 14 oz Crushed tomatoes (one can)
- 3 Cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 Bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 Vidalia onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 pkg Fresh spinach
- 1/2 c Fresh basil leaves, torn
- 6 tbsp. Extra Virgin olive oil (3 times around the pan, x2)
- 1 tsp. Salt, to taste
- 1 tsp. Black pepper, to taste
- 2 c Unsweetened almond milk
- 2 tbsp. All-purpose flour (or cornstarch if using non-dairy milk)
- 2 tbsp. Butter (we use Country Crock's plant based stick butter)
- 2 1/2 tbsp. Nutritional yeast
- 2 tsp. McCormick garlic pepper grinder
- 1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
- Start by washing and chopping up all veggies mentioned above, setting aside for use later.
Make Tomato Sauce & Filling:
- Chop sausage into ½' to 1" rounds and cook in a large saucepan over medium heat with olive oil, flipping with tongs after 3-5 minutes on each side.
- Add olive oil, garlic, and onions to the pan and saute for 3 to 5 minutes until they become aromatic. Add the peppers and sauté with onions and garlic until softened.
- Chop the whole tomatoes (in a food processor if needed) and add them to the pan along with crushed tomatoes and salt, simmering 10 minutes.
- Add spinach and basil, and simmer over low heat for 10 more minutes.
- Put a large pot of water on to boil. Once boiling, add salt and pasta, cooking for 7-8 minutes, leaving pasta a little al dente.
- Drain pasta and toss with olive oil or butter in a large, oven safe dish.
Make Bechamel Sauce:
- While the pasta cooks, make the bechamel sauce. Heat a saucepan over medium heat, add butter and melt.
- Whisk in flour (or cornstarch), stirring constantly, then season with salt, garlic pepper, nutritional yeast, and nutmeg to taste.
- Stir in milk of choice and bring sauce to a bubble. Cook 5 minutes to thicken slightly.**
Assemble the Dish:
- Set oven to broil (500*F) to warm up.
- Toss pasta with the homemade tomato sauce, and top casserole with bechamel and three cheeses (Parm, Asiago, and Mozzarella). Bake 3-5 mins until cheese is brown and bubbly.
- *I added sausages to mine, completely optional if you want this to be vegetarian.
- **To know when the bechamel sauce is done, dip a spoon into the sauce. When you can run a finger across the back of the spoon and it stays looking like a strong, clean line (a.k.a. no drips through the center of the mark you made), it has thickened properly. If it’s still drippy, continue to cook the sauce for another 2-3 minutes.