20sprigsbasil, minced (about ⅓ bunch of basil or ¼ cup minced) *
Freshly ground black pepper
1cupshredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 475°F with oven rack in the middle position.
In an oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat, add oil and heat until shimmering. Add sausage and cook, breaking it up into smaller bits, 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Drain excess fat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute or until fragrant. Stir in salt, red pepper flakes, tomatoes, water, and ziti.
Cover and simmer vigorously, stirring often, 9 to 10 minutes or until ziti is al dente. While pasta is simmering, mince basil leaves.
Stir in cream, Parmesan, and basil. Season with pepper.
Sprinkle mozzarella over the top. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and browned. Serve immediately.
Use a potato masher to break up the sausage into smaller bits while cooking.
If your skillet is not oven safe, before starting step 5 transfer the pasta to a shallow casserole dish. Then finish the remainder of the steps.
Ingredient Tips:*You can substitute 2 tablespoon minced garlic for the fresh garlic cloves*Ground Italian sausage comes in regular, mild, hot, and sweet variations. I used regular in this recipe because it is what my butcher has, but feel free to use whatever variety you prefer.*You can use Italian sausage links and remove the casings.*You can substitute 2 tablespoon dried basil for the fresh minced basil.