Baked Ziti Gets Healthy Mid-week Makeover

With the cold weather moving in, it seemed like the perfect time to make some healthy comfort food. This dish turned out to be very popular with the little ones, veggies were well hidden and hardly noticeable (all were greedily eaten), and it was a snap to pull together.

Turkey Veggie Ziti

Ingredients

Quick Fresh Tomato Sauce (Sugo di Pomodoro)
1 lb dried ziti pasta, cooked
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 medium-size yellow or white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 ribs celery, strings removed and diced
1 TBS Italian Seasoning (or 1 TBS of each: fresh parsley, oregano and basil finely chopped)
1 lb ground turkey meat
2 tsps kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
Parmesan Cheese, to taste, finely grated (optional)

Directions

Cook ziti according to package directions, but make sure to not overcook, as pasta will be baked in the oven before serving. Once drained, mix with a small amount of olive oil to keep pasta from sticking to itself while preparing the remainder of the meal. Set aside.

Prepare pasta sauce (recipe above), or if you are in a rush, you can use your favorite ‘stand-by’ sauce in a jar.

In a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and onion; saute until translucent, approximately 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, celery and the herb seasoning. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add in the ground turkey meat and break into small pieces. Stir in the salt and season with pepper to taste. When cooked, add in the cooked pasta and tomato sauce. Stir until well mixed. Using cooking spray, coat your 2.5 quart baking dish. (It is also fun to make individual servings and cooking the ziti in 4-6 large ramekins. Be aware that cooking time will be reduced as it will cook quicker in these smaller containers.) Fill baking dish, or ramekins, with pasta mixture and top generously with cheddar cheese.

Cook 30-40 minutes until cheese bubbles and is lightly browned. If using, sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese. Serve immediately!

Time Saver Note: If you happen to make pasta often, make extra, coat the overage lightly with vegetable or olive oil and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days until you have the ingredients to make this dish.

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