This dish is full of pasta and cheese, but you don't have to feel guilty after eating it!
I’m not sure if you’re going to believe me, but what I’m about to say is true: this cheesy pizza pasta bake is better than ordering takeout. I mean, just look at it – just like pizza, this fusion dish is absolutely swimming in ooey, gooey cheese! But, that’s not the only reason I’m skipping takeout these days. As it turns out, this comforting casserole is also healthy, so it won’t put a wrinkle in your diet plan.
I know, I know, it all sounds too good to be true. How could something so decadent and indulgent also be good for you? At the end of the day, it’s all about choices, and we have a team of nutritionists working hard to transform your favorite comfort classics into healthful meals. They specifically chose nutrient-dense ingredients and clean-eating alternatives that don’t taste like a cop-out. That means you get to enjoy the taste of pizza without any of the guilt. And, since this is a homemade version, you won’t have to incur the expense of delivery or carryout, either!
Healthy Cheesy Pizza Pasta Bake – How Is That Possible?
This cheesy pizza pasta bake is my go-to meal when I can’t decide between pizza and pasta. Normally, I find myself craving those types of dishes because they’re comforting and warm – perfect for a cold winter’s day. I don’t love all the guilt that comes along with chowing down on a pizza or a pasta casserole, though. Luckily, we found a way to make this dish both nutritious and delicious!
We started with choosing whole-wheat pasta. Some of you might be avoiding carbs on a Keto or other low-carb diet, so you would need to skip the pasta altogether. For the rest of you, I hope you know about the difference between simple- and complex-carbohydrates. As it turns out, complex-carbs (like those found in whole wheat pasta) are really good for your body! They take a long time to digest, meaning you’ll have lasting energy for hours.
Next, we looked at how we could keep the saturated fat content down. This type of fat is notorious for increasing your chances at getting heart disease. Its commonly found in meats, dairy products, and deep-fried foods, so we made a few simple choices to reduce this dish’s saturated fat content. You’ll notice we used lean ground turkey instead of beef, chose reduced fat mozzarella, and didn’t add any butter or oil.
Finally, we snuck in a ton of vegetables to the cheesy pizza pasta bake. Sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and bell peppers all bring along their vitamins and minerals (along with some great flavor, too). If you have a family full of picky eaters, they may not even notice there are veggies underneath all that cheese!
All in all, this cheesy pizza pasta bake makes a great family dinner. It’s sure to be a hit with both the kids and the adults. Plus, you get to make healthy choices without feeling deprived! Get ready to enjoy all the comforting flavor of a cheesy casserole without any of the negative aspects found in other comfort foods.
Cheesy Pizza Pasta Bake
- 1 pound lean ground turkey
- 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt to taste
- 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, cut into thinly sliced rings
- 4 ounces sliced Portobella mushrooms
- 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
- 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
- 1/2 cup sliced black olives
- 4 cups cooked whole grain penne pasta
- 24 ounce jar of marinara sauce, no sugar added
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped basil
- 1 1/2 cups 2% reduced fat mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Cook turkey in a large skillet over medium heat, sprinkle with sage, red pepper flakes, black pepper and salt to taste. Break turkey up into chunks while cooking, continue cooking until it has lost its pink color and is cooked through. Drain and set aside.
- In a medium non-stick skillet, on medium-low heat, add oil and cook onion rings until they begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms release moisture, about 5 additional minutes. Drain liquid.
- Cook penne according to instructions of the box. Note: Approximately 1-1/2 cups uncooked pasta equals 4 cups cooked.
- Combine in a large mixing bowl marinara, cooked penne, cooked turkey and basil, spread into a 9"x13" casserole dish. Evenly distribute remaining ingredients over penne, top with mozzarella. Bake uncovered 20-25 minutes or until cheese is hot and bubbly.
- Tip: Marinara (no sugar added) - Ragu has a lite sauce if you're on a budget (who's not?); if splurging try Amy’s Organic Marinara Pasta Sauce
Have you made this recipe?
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Originally published on August 18, 2012.