Dec 21, 2020

Last Minute Improvised Baked Ziti - Using Sour Cream Instead of Ricotta

Even though I was trying to keep this recipe as authentic as possible, but some of the ingredients were hard to find when I was at the grocery store. Items like ricotta or some other common cheese products are not always available on the shelf here in Taiwan. Sometimes it really depends on luck, and too bad that I can't just stock up fresh cheese varieties since they can go bad pretty quickly.

So I made a few modifications. Instead of using ricotta, freshly grated mozzarella, and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, I switched to pre-mixed packet of mozzarella, parmesan, and cheddar. Flavor might not be as good as freshly grated version, but the pre-mixed bag for sure saved quite some money here. I also used sour cream instead of ricotta. 

On top of that, I swapped out flat leaf parsley with the curly kind, especially the flat leaf parsley was double the price of the curly version. Instead of fresh basil, I changed to pasta sauce with basil. I even used whole sausages and chopped them into smaller cubes, since I couldn't find one that can be taking out of its casing and used like ground meat. With so many adjustments, at least $30 USD was saved and remained safely in my wallet, and my goodness at least the final baked ziti doesn't disappoint.

Last minute improvised baked ziti -


  • 400 grams ziti (or short pasta like penne, but without that diagonal cut ends)
  • 1 jar/420 grams tomato sauce with basil
  • 200 grams sausage meat (or chopped sausage)
  • 160 grams ground beef
  • 200 grams pre-mixed mozzarella, cheddar, and parmesan
  • 200 grams sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon mixed dried Italian seasoning
  • Some salt
  • Some black pepper
  • Some chopped parsley


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit/176 degrees Celsius. 

Use sausage meat, or remove sausages from casing. If you can't find both, simply chop the sausages into smaller cubes. Finely chop the parsley. Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil and season with big spoonful of salt. Cook the pasta till almost al dente, perhaps cut down the cooking time by 3 minutes. Once ready, drain and set aside for later use. You can drizzle some olive oil and give the pasta a few tosses to avoid sticking.

Use a large sauté pan or a pot, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and turn to medium high heat. Once the oil warms up, add in ground beef, sausage meat along with some salt and black pepper. The amount of salt and black pepper used varies depending on the sausage, but I would say at least 1 teaspoon of salt here. Mix and cook for about couple minutes.

Wait till the meat starts to browned a little, add in onion and garlic, continue to cook for couple more minutes. Add in 1 tablespoon of dried mixed Italian seasoning, mix and cook for another minute.

Pour in tomato basil sauce. Mix till blended evenly. Bring to a boil then quickly turn down the heat to keep it at a simmer. Taste and adjust with additional seasonings if needed.

Use a large casserole dish, first spread some of the sauce mixture to the bottom then dot with sour cream throughout.

Also mix some sauce to cooked pasta first, then pour that pasta to the casserole.

Pour the rest of the sauce over pasta. Again, dot with sour cream. If you have ricotta, even better. Sprinkle mozzarella, cheddar, and parmesan cheese mixture all over.

Into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or till the top gets slightly browned.

Remove from heat and let it rest for few minutes. Remember to garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

Good thing is that without all the supposedly "better options," my substituted ingredients didn't fail me at all. The last minute improvised cheese, sausage meat, parsley, and basil won't change the flavor drastically, but it sure tasted on the sourish side due to sour cream. So if you would like to save some money with adjustments like mine here, try to keep ricotta the same whenever possible. I only changed that to sour cream because I couldn't find ricotta.

Either way, I'm pretty happy with the result. After all, who wouldn't love baked pasta filled with oozing cheese on top?

Other pasta recipes:

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