Trying to lose weight? Craving your favorite pasta dish? Cutting out those so-called comfort foods? Hoping for the pasta-bility to enjoy pasta while losing weight?
If nodding your head to all, look no further than this baked pasta marinara recipe inspired by baked ziti!
Most pasta dishes are laden in fats and calories from Italian sausage and gobs of full-fat cheese. But we cleaned up the nutrition information by using lean ground chicken and fat-free cheese blends.
Do not worry though, this pasta dish uses quality and nourishing ingredients while still packing major flavor. It also sneaks in veggies, just like this King Ranch Chicken mac and cheese that comes together in less than 30 minutes!
Find out how to enjoy one hearty, yet healthy dish that bursts with both flavor and nutrients!
Baked Pasta Marinara Recipe
Yield: 12 servings
Nutrition per serving: 340 calories, 11 g fat, 26 g protein, 34 g total carb, 5 g fiber
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
• 2 lbs lean ground chicken (or lean ground beef)
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
• 1 sweet onion, diced
• 1 medium zucchini, diced
• 1 medium yellow squash, diced
• 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
• 1 Tbsp fennel seeds
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1/2 tsp black pepper
• 1, 13-oz box of whole wheat penne
• 8 oz fat-free ricotta cheese
• 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese, part-skim
• 2, 15-oz jars marinara sauce
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spritz a deep 9x13" casserole dish with non-stick spray and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the ground chicken. Once it begins to brown after a couple of minutes, add garlic, carrot, onion, zucchini, squash, Italian seasoning, fennel, salt, and pepper. Continue to sauté, stirring frequently until onions and garlic are fragrant, about 5 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to low-medium and add the marinara sauce. Allow the sauce to simmer and reduce, at least 15 minutes.
4. While the sauce simmers, add whole wheat pasta to the boiling water. Cook about 4 minutes less than the 4box states for al dente pasta.
5. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta and half of the mozzarella and stir to combine.
6. When pasta is cooked and drained, add half the pasta into the prepared baking dish and top with half of the meat and vegetable sauce. Spoon the ricotta mixture on top of the sauce in dollops around the pan. Layer with the remaining pasta and the remaining sauce, being sure all noodles are covered by sauce. Top with the remaining mozzarella.
7. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the mozzarella is melted and the edges are lightly browned.
8. Top with parmesan cheese as desired and serve hot with Italian flat beans or other favorite veggies.
Baked Pasta Recipe Tips
From ensuring a low-sugar tomato sauce to freezing for future use, use these baked pasta recipe tips for the ultimate healthy meal prep.
Be Cautious of Spaghetti Sauces
Spaghetti sauces, and sauces in general, tend to be hidden culprits of added sugars so try to find one without them. Ideally, a tomato sauce should namely include tomatoes and a variety of seasonings on its Ingredient label.
Preparing a homemade sauce is also a simple way to control ingredients. This homemade tomato sauce features nourishing ingredients, is devoid of added sugar, and takes less than 30 minutes to prepare!
Swap Meats as Desired
Ground chicken is an excellent source of protein to balance the noodles in the dish. However, feel free to swap out with other lean ground meats such as ground turkey or beef.
The dish can likewise be prepared without meat as desired and be bulked with more veggies. These may include bell pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, and mushroom.
Refrigerate or Freeze for Later
Have any leftovers? Refrigerate the baked pasta marinara in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
The baked pasta dish can be frozen for later use as well, so feel free to make a double batch. Preparing and freezing for future use is also a great way to repurpose veggies about to spoil. And if planning to freeze, use an aluminum foil pan so a regularly used dish is not held up.
Cover the prepped pasta dish tightly with foil and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to enjoy, bake the pasta covered in a 375°F oven for about 90 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes more, or until cheese is melted and golden in color.