Dishes like this are what cold weather is for. It’s what makes it tolerable. Cheese, tomatoes, pasta, plenty of leftovers or enough to share. This is such a great option if you’ve got a crowd to feed over a holiday weekend and are tired of the Christmas leftovers. I might even make this for Christmas Eve this year.

This is from a Cook’s Illustrated special magazine called Skillet Dinners. It might also be in The Best Skillet Dinners, which is their full cookbook of skillet meals. A lot of the recipes from that magazine are in the book, and every one I’ve tried has been amazing. I have tried many, because I live for skillets apparently.

1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes
1 lb hot or sweet (I like sweet) Italian sausage, casings removed
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
3 cups water
12 ounces (3 3/4 cups) ziti
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 ounce grated Parmesan (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
4 oz whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (1 cup, although I’m probably much more liberal with the cheese)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 475. Pulse the tomatoes and their juice in a food processor until coarsely ground and large pieces are broken up.

Cook sausage in a 12″ oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat, breaking apart the meat until it’s no longer pink. About 3-5 minutes.

baked ziti 1

Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 1 more minute. Stir in the pulsed tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer , stirring occasionally, about 1o minutes until the tomatoes no longer taste raw.

baked ziti 2

Stir in the water, then add the pasta.

baked ziti 3


Cover and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring often and making sure there is a “vigorous simmer” for 15-18 minutes. The pasta should be tender.

Stir in the cream, Parmesan, and basil. Season with salt and pepper.

baked ziti 4


Sprinkle the mozzarella over the top and bake until the cheese melts and bubbles (10-15 minutes).

baked ziti 5

baked ziti

Serve immediately. Enjoy the cold!