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Comfort-Food-Level Baked Ziti Recipe

Our lighter version of the classic dish means you can happily indulge without eating a total calorie bomb.
Comfort-Food-Level Baked Ziti RecipeMitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

Long a staple of red-sauce loving Italian-American cooks, baked ziti is only a rung below mac and cheese on the comfort-food ladder. It’s a simple formula—noodles covered in red sauce, speckled with cheese, maybe a bit of meat—but Italian restaurants can so often get it so wrong by loading the meal with exorbitant amounts of saturated fat that nobody in their right mind should pay to eat. Save your cash—and your ticker—and eat our healthier version instead. You can easily make it at home, and it won’t weigh you down. This is home-cooked comfort food at its finest.

Nutrition: 410 calories, 12 g fat (5 g saturated), 600 mg sodium

Serves 4

You’ll Need

10 oz ziti, preferably whole-wheat if you can find it
1  Tbsp olive oil
2  links pre-cooked chicken or turkey sausage, diced
1  medium yellow onion, diced
2  cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 can (28 oz) tomato puree
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
3⁄4 cup cubed mozzarella (preferably fresh)
Parmesan for grating

How to Make It

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until a minute shy of being done (it’ll finish cooking in the oven).
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat.
  3. Add the sausage and cook for about 2 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the onion, garlic, and pepper flakes, and cook until the onion is soft and translucent.
  4. Stir in the tomato puree, plus a good pinch of salt and black pepper.
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer for at least 10 minutes.
  6. Drain the pasta.
  7. Add to the skillet and toss with the sauce.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and mozzarella.
  9. Dump the pasta into a 12″ x 9″ baking dish, sprinkle the top with a bit of Parmesan, and cover with foil. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes, until the top is crusty and browned.
  10. Garnish with basil leaves and serve.

Eat This Tip

Pad Your Pasta

The reason most pasta dishes fail is that the bulk of their volume comes from noodles, which means high calories, empty carbs, and little nutrition. To improve matters, cut the noodles down to 8 ounces and fill out the dish by adding any of the following to the pasta before baking: 2 cups cooked broccoli, 1 box thawed frozen spinach, or 8 ounces sautéed mushrooms.

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