Friday, July 27, 2012

Skinny Baked Italian Pasta

When I've got people coming over for dinner, I try to make sure everyone can enjoy the meal. Making a baked pasta with some cheese, meat and veggies seems to always win the hearts of my guests. It is also quite affordable to make when you've got a handful of people to feed. Now most baked pasta dishes I've had are quite heavy. They consist of a lot of meat, cheese and oil, with very little veg except the tomato sauce. This is a much better for you version! Who knew pasta could be figure friendly? I hear from clients that pasta is a diet no-no, but it doesn't have to be. I don't believe in giving up the foods you enjoy, but enjoying them in a healthier and portion controlled manner. By adding a bit more veg, reducing the cheese, choosing lean meats - this can be a great main dish to serve. Serving it with a fresh garden salad can make this a simple meal everyone can enjoy (even the kids!). No one has to know you've lighten-up a hearty dish like this one! So go ahead - eat your pasta, you deserve to savor the food you enjoy. 

The baby bella mushrooms are more flavorful and meatier than white button mushrooms, so I highly recommend using them. If you are concerned about the spice factor, then opt for a mild Italian turkey sausage. If you can't find turkey sausage, most stores have pork Italian sausages, just be aware the nutritional info may go up some. If you have a gluten intolerance, just substitute the pasta and bread crumbs for gluten free versions (rice, quinoa, etc). 

Skinny Baked Italian Pasta

Cook Time: < 35 minutes
Prep Time: < 10 minutes
Serves: 9


  • 1 lb of whole wheat penne pasta
  • 6 cups of plain organic tomato sauce 
  • 2 tbsp dried Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8oz of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup of frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 lb of grass-fed lean ground beef
  • 2 hot Italian turkey sausages, remove from casing
  • 1 cup of part skim ricotta
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • 1oz fresh Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • olive oil spray

In a large stock pot, cook the penne in salted water, until almost completely cooked (make sure to not over cook). Drain the pasta and set aside in a side bowl.

In a medium pot add the tomato sauce and Italian seasoning and bring to almost a boil. Cover, lower heat and allow to simmer while everything is cooking. Add salt and pepper if you'd like. This sauce should simmer about 10 minutes or longer. 

As the pasta and sauce is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic and allow to saute for about 4-5 minutes. 

Then add the mushrooms, spinach and salt and pepper to taste. Allow the mixture to cook for 4-5 more minutes. Remove from the stove and set it aside on a side plate. Wipe down the skillet.

In the same skillet, add the ground beef and turkey sausage. Crumble and brown until completely cooked through (about 10 minutes).

Then in the large stock pot you used to cook the pasta, add the pasta back in, mushroom mixture, cooked ground meat, tomato sauce and the ricotta cheese. Stir everything together well. Make sure to coat the pasta well with the sauce. 

In a 13 x 9 pan, pour the pasta mixture in and spread out evenly. Sprinkle the bread crumbs, parsley and cheese over top. Spray lightly with a little olive oil spray over the top of the breadcrumbs.

Bake, uncovered for 20 minutes. Then place under the broiler for 1 minute or 2 to brown to the top. Allow the pasta to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Info per (generous-sized) serving:
Calories: 425 ; Fat: 11.5g ; Carbohydrate: 50g ; Fiber: 8g; Sugar: 5g ; Protein: 29g 

Nutritional Info per Serving:
Calories: 420 ; Fat: 10.5g ; Carbohydrate: 50g; Fiber: 9g ; Sugar: 7.5g ; Protein: 29.5g


  1. wow This is so TASTY! Love that beautiful golden top!

  2. Yum this looks fantastic!!! This kind of dish is my family's favorite. :)

  3. So colourful and the crust looks delicious ~~ thanks for the recipe :)

  4. This looks so delicious! I love your skinny version and agree this is a great meal to feed a crowd. I love that it can all be prepared in advance, leaving you time to have a cocktail with your guests while it's still cooking.

    1. excellent idea! I'll have to make mimosas or something next time.

  5. Oh my, this looks fantastic. Fresh, delicious, and healthy too!