Baked Ziti Tips For Success:
There are two very common ways that a Baked Ziti can go wrong, not enough sauce and overcooked noodles. Or worse- both!!
To solve the mushy noodle dilemma, I recommend boiling the noodles to under al dente. Al dente is the perfect way to eat pasta, soft but just a little bite left to it.
However, for the purpose of baked pasta, I want you to cook it even less than al dente. Cook it to the amount where you actually wouldnt want it. I know that sounds weird, but when baking in the oven the ziti actually continues to cook, and so starting that second boil in the sauce in an undercooked state will leave you with a perfectly cooked final dish!
Which brings me to my next point, dry baked ziti! Because the pasta will unavoidably continue to cook while baking in the oven, a portion of the sauce used will be absorbed into the noodles.
So, my recipe uses a generous amount of sauce in order to counteract the amount of sauce you will lose while baking!
Turkey Cauliflower Baked Ziti
This turkey cauliflower baked ziti uses cooked cauliflower instead of pasta noodles so its low-carb and gluten-free while still being cheesy and delicious. Recipe is from Megan Gilmores cookbook, No Excuses Detox.
Happy Thursday! This is an exciting week because my lovely friend Megan Gilmore of Detoxinista just launched a new cookbook called No Excuses Detox. Its a follow-up to her first cookbook, Everyday Detox, which features the caramelized onion and red bell pepper frittata recipe I shared here on EBF a while back.
Megan and I both graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and have a similar approach to health and wellness. Megan focuses on detoxing, but not in the traditional way most people think of detoxing. Rather than asking you to follow a strict diet for 30 days or less, shes promoting the idea of enjoying delicious meals made from whole foods all year long. This approach is about lifestyle changes that help to optimize digestion, gently remove toxins and promote effortless weight loss and lasting health. < LOVE!
With this new cookbook, Megan is addressing the five most common excuses people give when it comes to not eating well consistently:
- Not enough time
- Picky eaters in the family
- Always on the go
- Too many cravings
The cookbook is filled with the recipes and gorgeous photos but also includes:
Let Me Show You How I Made This Ground Turkey Baked Ziti
Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees and spraying a casserole baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, ground turkey, and the onion. Break up the turkey as it cooks, cooking until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
When the turkey is cooked through, add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds until the garlic is fragrant.
Now add the whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, reduce the heat to medium-low and let that sauce simmer for about 25 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to directions.
When the sauce has had a chance to simmer and get all kinds of lovely, add the softened cream cheese and let it melt into the marinara.
When the cream cheese has melted into the sauce and its nice and creamy, remove it from the heat and stir in the fresh parsley.
Now grab that casserole dish and lets do some layering. Start with half of the cooked ziti and top the pasta with 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella.
Next, top with half of the turkey-marinara.
Repeat those layers: the rest of the ziti, another cup of mozzarella and then the rest of the turkey-marinara.
Finally, top with half a cup of mozzarella and 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and the sauce is hot and bubbly. Should look like this
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How To Prep This Baked Ziti Ahead:
This baked ziti is easily prepped ahead for a no-work weeknight meal! Here are some tips:
- Prepare the Baked Ziti up until the point of baking it.
- Wrap tightly and refrigerate up to 3-4 days before baking and serving.
- Continue with baking instructions in the recipe to heat and serve.
- Store any leftovers in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
Another great meal prep idea is to cook up a bunch of Italian turkey sausage when you bring it home from the grocery store, then freeze in small-medium freezer containers or bags so you can pull them out for a quick meal. Having a great protein cooked and ready to throw in makes dinnertime so much simpler!
Substitutions For This Baked Ziti Ground Turkey
Meat: You could make this with ground chicken, ground beef, or ground sausage.
Pasta: If you cant find ziti, rigatoni or penne will work.
Can you use gluten free pasta? Yes! You can use gluten free or regular white flour pasta in this recipe. Just make sure not to overcook the pasta!
Mozzarella/Ricotta: I wouldnt recommend using low fat mozzarella or ricotta. I think low fat cheese is significantly less creamy and does not have nearly as much flavor or melt as well.
Can you make this baked ziti with spinach? Yes, I have made this with chopped spinach added in and it is delicious.
Can you make this baked ziti with cottage cheese? I havent tried this but I think you can swap 1/2 of the ricotta for cottage cheese if youre looking for a higher protein, lower fat dinner
WW Freestyle: The points for this recipe were calculated as follows: Pasta: 32 SP, Olive Oil: 3SP, Mozzarella: 9SP, Ricotta, 10 SP = 54 points/6 = 9 Points calculated using 99% fat free turkey. Use Fat Free Shredded mozzarella to save 2.5SP per serving. Save .5SP by using fat free ricotta
Can you make baked ziti without meat? If youd like to, sure! It will not have as much protein, but it will still be yummy!
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How Can I Make Baked Ziti Less Spicy
You can make this baked ziti recipe less spicy by replacing the Hot Italian Turkey Sausage with sweet sausage or ground turkey . Both sweet sausage and ground turkey are great substitutes because they have the same texture as the hot Italian turkey sausage, but are more palatable for sensitive tastebuds.
Baked Ziti Recipe Video:
Watch Natasha make this easy baked ziti pasta casserole. This is so easy and delicious. It also reheats so well and you will be excited about leftovers!
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Healthy Baked Ziti Pasta
Healthy Baked Ziti is a lighter twist on a classic Italian dish. Baked Ziti Pasta is made with ground turkey for a delicious, simple dinnerthat anyone will love! Easily made gluten free + simple to prepare!
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Im not sure whos idea it was to take pasta and bake it with cheese + meat until it got all melty and delicious, but wow I love them for it.
This healthy baked ziti is one of my favorite comfort meals and tastes just as good as the regular version!
How To Make Baked Ziti With Ground Turkey
- Brown turkey in frying pan and add chopped onion and minced garlic to meat with kosher salt and pepper for added flavor
- After meat has browned, add your favorite tomato based pasta sauce and allow the meat mixture to simmer. This is a great time to do a taste test to ensure that your meat mixture is well seasoned. For added flavor add a dash of Italian seasoning.
- Boil water and season with a big pinch of salt and allow the pasta to cook just until al dente .
- Add the pasta to the meat sauce .
- Pour the pasta into a prepared baking dish
- Add a generous amount of mozzarella cheese or other cheese blend.
- Cover baking dish loosely with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees until cheese is bubbling
- Remove aluminum foil and continue cooking for an additional 5 to 7 minutes if you prefer a slightly brown crusty top
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S To Make Turkey Baked Ziti With Spinach & Carrots
Saute onion and carrots. Then the garlic and ground turkey.
Add red wine and let boil and reduce.
Add canned tomatoes + seasonings and herbs. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile boil pasta to very al dente. Drain and add to sauce along with ricotta cheese and spinach. Stir to combine. Top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese
Transfer to large baking dish and bake until cheese is melty and golden brown.
Remove from oven and serve immediately.
What Is Ziti Pasta
Ziti is a hollow pasta in the shape of a smooth tube, sort of like a short straw. It originated in Campagna, Italy, or perhaps Sicily, Italy. Its name means bride or bridegroom, although the stories of why the Italians gave this pasta the name for those getting married can vary. In some parts of Italy, it’s served at weddings.
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How Do I Make Baked Ziti Not Dry
Half of the mozzarella should be layered into the pasta, with the other half reserved for the top. It bakes to a golden brown color, which is the mark of a good pasta casserole. Make sure theres enough sauce to make a layer on top, under the mozzarella. This will keep the pasta from drying out by insulating it.
How To Store Reheat And Freeze Ziti
You can assemble this ahead, and either refrigerate or freeze it before you do the final baking. If you freeze it, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before baking. You can also freeze a baked ziti, and reheat it thawed or frozen.
- Refrigerating and then baking an assembled, unbaked ziti: Cover the assembled ziti with foil and refrigerate up to 24 hours. To bake, remove the foil and bake at 350°F until the top is lightly browned and the cheese is melted. Expect to add at least 15 more minutes baking time than if you had baked it right after assembling.
- Freezing and then baking an assembled, unbaked ziti: To bake frozen unbaked ziti, it’s best to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before baking. Remove any plastic wrap. Bake, uncovered, 350°F until lightly browned and bubbly, 60 to 70 minutes. Cover with foil if the top browns before the inside is fully heated.
- Freezing and reheating a baked ziti: Bake, covered with foil, at 350°F. Reheat thawed or frozen the time will depend on the pan itself, and how frozen the lasagna is. Expect it to take at least 35 to 45 minutes, but check to see that it hits 165°F in the center.
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Baked Ground Turkey Ziti
If you thought you couldn’t indulge in favorites and still stay on a healthy eating schedule, you’ll be thrilled to know that baked ziti is not a thing of the past. After the ground turkey is cooked, it’s then flavored with a savory mix of dried oregano, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. The homemade sauce is then finished off with canned crush tomatoes. Layer the sauce, ziti, and mozzarella cheese in a casserole dish and let everything bake in the oven until the cheese is golden and bubbly, which should take about 30 minutes. You won’t find an easier, satisfying, or more delicious ziti recipe!
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions drain and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat add garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add turkey and cook until browned, breaking meat up with a spoon as it cooks, 3 to 5 minutes drain off any fat and set pan back over medium heat.
4. Add oregano, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper to turkey stir to coat. Cook until herbs become fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and bring mixture to a boil reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Bake until cheese is golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Slice into 8 pieces and serve.
How Do You Make Baked Ziti With Meat Sauce
Add water to large pot, sprinkle some salt, bring to a boil over high heat then add the ziti. Cook the pasta according to package directions, removing while the pasta is still somewhat firm.
Drain the pasta in a colander then add back into the pot. You dont want to cook it all the way because the sauce and cheese mixture will cook the pasta even further.
While the pasta is cooking, add the ground beef to the skillet and brown 5-7 minutes until the meat is no longer pink. Next, add the marinara sauce and simmer on low for 10 minutes.
In a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, egg, garlic powder, salt, pepper, parsley and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Add this mixture along with the meat sauce to the pasta in the pot mix well.
Place the pasta mixture in an oven safe baking dish, sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and bake at 425 degrees F 15-20 minutes until the cheese has melted and it is heated through.
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Can You Make Baked Ziti Ahead Of Time
You can absolutely make baked ziti ahead of time. Here, are 2 ways:
What Makes This Baked Ziti Healthy
- Turkey for protein This recipe uses turkey for the meat instead of beef or sausage. You can definitely use those, but turkey is a much leaner meat which leaves this dish higher in protein and lower in fat.
- Whole wheat pasta Whole wheat pasta is always a better choice when possible! The whole grains are much better for you and will help to keep you feeling full.
- Less cheese this healthy baked ziti pasta recipe doesnt have nearly as much cheese as many other recipes do. I promise you wont miss it though its perfectly cheesy as is!
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Tips For Making The Best Baked Ziti
Before you head into the kitchen to make this baked ziti, a few tips.
1. Cook your pasta just shy of al dente. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure to cook it just shy of al dente. The ziti should be tender but still slightly firm in the center. For most ziti, this means six to seven minutes.
2. Feel free to reduce the amount of red pepper flakes. This recipe uses one teaspoon of red pepper flakes to add a pop of heat to the sauce. If youre sensitive to spice, you can reduce the amount or omit it altogether.
3. If you want to get a head-start, assemble the pasta ahead of time and bake it later. You can completely assemble this dish, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and store it in the refrigerator up to one day in advance. When youre ready to eat, all you have to do is bake it.
Tips For Making This Healthier Slow Cooker Baked Ziti:
- You can cook this Slow Cooker Baked Ziti on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours.
- You can use any short pasta shape that you like in this recipe. I used whole wheat penne because my store doesnt carry whole wheat ziti. Different types of pasta may vary in their cook times.
- You will add the pasta at the end of the cook time. Since slow cookers may vary in the amount of heat they put out, the pasta can take anywhere from 12-25 minutes to cook. I have tested this recipe in my 5 quart slow cooker.
- When you add the pasta, you will want your slow cooker to be on the high setting. If youve had your slow cooker on the low setting while cooking the rest of the dish it will take a few minutes to heat up to high heat. This means that your pasta may take longer to cook.
- The leftovers of this Slow Cooker Baked Ziti reheat well after being stored in the refrigerator. I have not tried freezing this recipe, but these Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs are one of my favorite freezer crock pot meals!
- If you have an Instant Pot, youll love my easy Instant Pot Pasta recipe!
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