Thursday, December 1, 2011

Baked Ziti - - 8 servings of delicious

I've shared a couple of times on my blog that I am absolutely in love with the Biggest Loser Baked Ziti. It is easy enough for me to make, but tasty enough to make me feel like I'm having a treat. It makes 8 servings (and who doesn't love one session of cooking, and eight meals?!?!) and the best part....dun, dun, dun....I actually like the leftovers! I don't typically do too well with warmed up food - so anything I find that is good out of the microwave is a total victory.

So let me get on with it. Below is the recipe from their book. I also add a 20oz package of ground turkey to this - - it adds some protein, and allows my brain to rationalize that it is even better for me because of it. =) They also get pretty specific about what types of cookware to use - - listen to them! I made this in a non-non-stick pan one time, and it tasted really metal-y. It isn't great. So listen. Surprisingly, they know more about this type of stuff than I do.

First you need to make the "Main Event Marinara Sauce". All of this will be used in the ziti.

Olive Oil Spray
1 cup minced yellow or white onion
2 T freshly minced garlic
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup water
2 T no-salt-added tomato paste
2 t honey
1 T dried oregano
1 t dried basil
1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
salt, to taste (optional)
20 oz package ground turkey

Spray a medium nonstick saucepan with the olive oil spray and place over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until just becoming tender (they should not brown), 4 to 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and with a wooden spoon stir in the tomatoes, water, tomato paste, honey, oregano, basil and pepper flakes until well combined. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 1 hour. Season with salt, if needed.

**Notes from Natalie: I don't add any salt. Also, I brown up the turkey, and add that to the sauce after about 1/2 hour. Then I simmer it all together for 30-45 minutes. And do you see what I mean about the specific cookware!?!? I thought they were full of it.

Now for the Ziti!!

Olive Oil Spray
1 (14.5 oz) box fiber-enriched ziti or penne rigate (I use Ronzoni Smart Taste - and I prefer the ziti to the penne)
1 (15 oz) container fat free ricotta cheese
2 large egg whites
8 ounces (4 cups) finely shredded reduced-fat mozzerella cheese (you may notice - as I did - that their quantities don't add up here. I use 16 ounces - 4 cups. It still isn't that much....)
1/4 t garlic powder
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Main Event Marinara Sauce (see above)
2 T grated reduced-fat parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 450degrees F. Lightly mist a 13"x9"x2" ceramic or glass baking dish with olive oil spray.

Cook the ziti according to package directions until al dente. Drain. (I do this while the sauce is simmering)

In a large mixing bowl, mix the ricotta, egg whites and all but 1 cup of the mozzerella until well combined. (see - - only using 2 cups here wouldn't make any sense. And I love cheese) Add the garlic powder and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir in the cooked pasta until well combined. (I don't add salt, and I think it's just delish...)

Spread 1 cup (I use slightly more b/c of the turkey) of the marinara sauce on the bottom of the prepared dish. Add half of the pasta in an even layer over the sauce. Top the pasta evenly with another 1 cup sauce. Layer the remaining pasta over the sauce. Spoon the remaining 1.5 cups of sauce evenly over the top of the pasta, then sprinkle the remaining mozzerella and the Parmesan over the top.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil (I spray the bottom side of the foil w/ cooking spray, so the cheese doesn't stick) and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 10 minutes longer, or until the mozzerella is melted. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces, or spoon among 8 bowls and serve.

Here's the nutrition info (w/o the turkey) per serving:
350 calories, 22 g protein, 57 g carbs, 6 g fat (3 g saturated), 20 mg cholesterol, 8 g fiber, 429 mg sodium

OK you guys! I hope you love it. And when you try it, you need to tell me how it was. And if you come up with any health upgrades, please share!

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