From Colu Henry’s Back Pocket Pasta
As noted in the post, the first time I made this, I made many substitutions: I only had a little bit of crème fraîche, so I made up the difference with heavy cream. I had a mix of Swiss chard and kale on hand, so I used those in place of the baby spinach. I even used vegan chorizo in place of hot Italian sausage. This is definitely a recipe that lends itself to improvising. I think you could definitely leave out the sausage if you wanted to make it vegetarian.
Regarding tomatoes: I used one 28-oz can of whole plum tomatoes, which I snipped with scissors right in the pan, and 14-oz Pomi crushed tomatoes—I love the Pomi brand—which I measured out using a liquid measure. It’s about 1 3/4 cups. This is just what I had on hand. When I make it again, I’ll use all crushed tomatoes for ease.
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream (see notes)
- 1 egg
- 1 cup grated Pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon (or less if sensitive to heat) crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh oregano (optional)
- 1 pound spicy or sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
- one 28-oz can plus one 14-oz can diced San Marzano tomatoes, see notes
- 1 pound ziti
- 5 oz. Swiss chard, leaves removed from stems and thinly sliced, or baby spinach
- 3/4 pound mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, crème fraîche, egg, and 1/2 cup of the Pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano, if using, and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the sausage and cook until browned, breaking up the meat with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Season to taste, and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of the salt and return to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook for 4 minutes short of al dente according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.
- Add the greens to the sauce with 1/2 cup pasta water, stirring until it wilts. Remove from the heat. Stir half of the sauce into the ricotta mixture. Add the pasta and toss together to coat. Pour the pasta into a 9×13-inch baking dish. Top with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella (I poke some of these cubes below the surface a little bit) and remaining Pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano over the top and bake until the cheese starts bubbling, about 20 minutes.
- Set the oven to broil and broil until the cheese and pasta are browned in spots, about 5 minutes more. (Note: keep a close watch the entire time—a minute or two might be all it needs.) Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Pasta
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: American, Italian
Keywords: baked, ziti, sausage, chard, easy, winter