I adore my dad’s baked ziti. It’s the best, absolutely the best. But sometimes all that cheese, meat (my mom makes her sauce with beef tips and lamb), and white pasta is too much. Sometimes you want all the gooeyness of a baked pasta dish, without all the fat.
That’s why I was so pleased to find this dish. It has lots of delicious flavor but is still pretty healthy (as healthy as a baked pasta dish can be anyway!). I think you’ll enjoy these flavors and the added nutrition. Not to mention the cheese. Yum.
A Healthier Baked Ziti
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1/2 pound mild turkey sausage
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
8 oz sliced cremini or button mushrooms
14 0z can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup prepared pesto
1/2 box wheat ziti, penne, or other tube-shaped pasta, cooked according to package directions and drained
4 cups baby spinach
3-4 oz mozzarella cheese, cubed (I used fresh but a block will work too)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 375° and spray an 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray.
Spray a skillet with olive-oil flavored cooking spray (or use a teaspoon or so of olive oil) and heat over medium-high heat. Squeeze sausage from the casings and into the pan. Toss the onion into the pan as well. Cook until the sausage is mostly done, breaking up the clumps of sausage as you see them. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Drain the fat if you think it’s necessary (I didn’t) and season with salt and pepper.
Reduce the heat to medium and add in the mushrooms and cook until most of their juice is evaporated (5 minutes or so). Pour in the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and let the sauce simmer for 10-15 minutes so the flavors can get nice and comfortable together. Stir in the pesto and check for seasonings.
Remove the sauce from the heat and dump in the cooked and drained pasta, the spinach, the mozzarella cheese, and 2 tablespoons of parmesan. Stir to combine and pour into the prepared pan. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is brown and sauce is bubbling.
-Adapted from Tasty Kitchen