My family is about as Italian as most leprechauns. Still, every Christmas night, Ma prepares lasagna and garlic bread for dinner. It’s not an authentic lasagna. She uses grated Polly-O and a jar of mushroom Prego. However, as we are essentially walking Blarney Stones, it’s good and we like it.
My Aunt Dot, a lifelong New Yorker and hilarious battleaxe, was well-known for two things: 1) clearing the dinner dishes three minutes before you were done eating (known to this day as “pulling a Dorothy”), and 2) baked ziti. She passed last year, so I’ll never find out how she made it. I can guarantee, though, that I’ll spend my whole life trying to replicate the recipe.
Today’s Lighter Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage comes from Cooking Light/Recipe Zaar, and it’s a tribute to both those women. The dish possesses a savory, tomato-ey flavor that's distinctive without being overwhelming, and includes enough parmesan and mozzarella to satisfy any cheese lover. I prefer my ziti a little dry, but you could always serve it with extra sauce on the side. Oh, and grating your own block of cheese is definitely suggested. It’s cheaper and tastes fresher, since there’s no anti-caking powder involved.
Caveat: I know adding vegetables would have been healthier, and making a sauce from scratch would have given it more culinary credibility, but that wasn’t what I was going for. I wanted a straight baked pasta dish – a bell-less, whistle-less, nutritionally bereft, lower calorie recipe that reminded me of Ma’s lasagna and Dot’s ziti. This fit the bill. And while it isn’t a light dish – it is a lighter one, coming in 320 calories and 20 grams of fat under its unenlightened All Recipes’ counterpart:
PER SERVING (6 servings)
All Recipes Baked Ziti with Sausage 865 calories 36.5 g fat
CHG Lighter Baked Ziti with Sausage 547 calories 16.8 g fat
In the end, it's delicious. And that's what counts.
This Christmas, I wish y'all happiness and good times with family. And if you can cram some baked pasta in there, all the better.
If you like this recipe, you might also dig:
Lighter Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage
Yields 6 to 8 servings
Adapted from Cooking Light/Recipe Zaar.
4 links (13 or 14 ounces) sweet Italian turkey sausage
1/8 cup onion flakes
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 26-oz jar your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 cup part-skim mozzarella, shredded fresh
2/3 to 1 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated if possible
1) Cook pasta in salted water until just short of al dente. Drain and set aside.
2) Separate turkey from casing and cook in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, crumbling the meat with the back of a wooden spoon as you go along. When a little fat is rendered, add onion and cook, stirring occasionally. When meat is nearly browned, add garlic and cook until fragrant.
3) Preheat oven to 350°F.
4) Pour salt, pepper, and sauce into skillet and stir to mix. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover skillet, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring every once in awhile. When 10 minutes is up, pour pasta into meat sauce and stir.
5) Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Spread half the pasta mixture on the bottom. Top it with half the mozzarella and half the parmesan. Add the rest of the pasta mixture and finish with mozzarella and parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until everything is warmed through and cheese is slightly browned. Serve with a little extra spaghetti sauce if desired, plus a side veggie. (Peas and carrots went nicely.)
Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price
6 servings: 547 calories, 16.8 g fat, 4.8 g fiber, $1.40
7 servings: 469 calories, 14.4 g fat, 4.1 g fiber, $1.20
8 servings: 410 calories, 12.6 g fat, 3.6 g fiber, $1.05
1 pound ziti or penne pasta: 1621 calories, 8.1 g fat, 16.2 g fiber, $0.66
4 links (13 or 14 ounces) sweet Italian turkey sausage: 560 calories, 32 g fat, 0 g fiber, $1.99
1/8 cup onion flakes: 24 calories, 0 g fat, 0.6 g fiber, $0.52
2 teaspoons garlic, minced: 8 calories, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, $0.10
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
1 26-oz jar your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used Classico Tomato Basil): 360 calories, 8 g fat, 12 g fiber, $1.60
1 cup part-skim mozzarella, shredded fresh: 280 calories, 20 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.75
2/3 to 1 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated if possible: 431 calories, 28.6 g fat, 0 g fiber: $2.72
Cooking spray: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.05
TOTAL: 3284 calories, 100.7 g fat, 28.9 g fiber, $8.41
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): 547 calories, 16.8 g fat, 4.8 g fiber, $1.40
PER SERVING (TOTAL/7): 469 calories, 14.4 g fat, 4.1 g fiber, $1.20
PER SERVING (TOTAL/8): 410 calories, 12.6 g fat, 3.6 g fiber, $1.05