Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Easy Baked Penne with Ricotta and Basil

There is something about winter that makes me crave comfort food.  One of the things that has made successfully maintaining weight loss a lot easier for me is finding ways to convert traditional comfort food recipes into healthier versions. The recipe below is a healthier take on a pasta casserole that I adapted from a recipe from wholefoods.com. It is simple to make and also freezes great. By substituting whole wheat pasta, skim ricotta, and lean ground turkey, this recipe can serve to satisfy those comfort food cravings without breaking the calorie bank!

Ingredients: (for 6 servings)
  • 1 pound penne rigate pasta (I use organic whole wheat pasta)
  • 1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 (25-oz) jar of marinara pasta sauce (I usually use tomato basil, though I think a garlic or veggie sauce would be good as well)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 c shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey (optional- the original recipe does not call for this but I usually add the ground turkey to add protein to the recipe)
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. If you are using ground turkey, brown the turkey with some onion and drain.
  3. Cook penne according to directions on package, then set aside and let cool for 5 minutes
  4. Combine ricotta cheese, basil, 1 1/2 cups of the pasta sauce and pepper in a large bowl
  5. Transfer pasta to the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss gently to coat.  Stir in the ground turkey.
  6. Spread 1/2 c of the remaining pasta sauce over the bottom of the baking dish (I usually use a 9x13) 
  7. Spoon the pasta mixture into the baking dish and spread out evenly.  Drizzle remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
  8. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes
While I really enjoy this recipe, I have noticed that it can have a tendency to be a little bland if you do not add onions to the ground turkey or add some additional spices such as basil and pepper.  I think that next time I make this I will use a more flavorful pasta sauce.


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