Healthy Baked Ziti is a lighter twist on a classic Italian dish. Baked Ziti Pasta is made with ground turkey for a delicious, simple dinner that anyone will love! Easily made gluten free + simple to prepare!
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I’m not sure whose idea it was to take pasta and bake it with cheese + meat until it got all melty and delicious, but wow I love them for it.
This healthy baked ziti is one of my favorite comfort meals and tastes just as good as the regular version!
Reasons why we love this Healthy Baked Ziti:
- extremely simple to make
- high in protein
- uhm hello, melty cheese and carbs?!!
If you’re looking for a new weeknight meal – you will love this recipe too!
What is baked ziti?
Baked ziti is a yummy Italian-American pasta dish. It’s loaded with cheese, pasta, sauce, and ground meat that get mixed together and baked until ooey-gooey and delicious!
Ingredients for Healthy Baked Ziti:
Making baked ziti pasta is not difficult at all. You’ll need a few basic ingredients like:
- olive oil
- ground turkey
- whole wheat ziti
- tomato sauce
- shredded mozzarella, ricotta cheese, and parmesan cheese
- fresh basil
You can find substitutions for all of these ingredients below in the green shaded substitutions box.
Is ziti the same as penne?
Ziti and penne are not the same. Ziti is flat on the edges and penne is angled at the edges.
How to Make Healthy Baked Ziti with Ground Turkey
- You’ll want to cook your pasta until al dente (I recommend cooking it by 1/2 the time recommended on the box)
- Brown your meat ahead of time.
- Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl
- Press into a glass baking dish, and bake in the oven until cheese is melted.
How long does it take to cook baked ziti?
It takes about 30 minutes to an hour to cook baked ziti.
What makes this baked ziti healthy?
- Turkey for protein – This recipe uses turkey for the meat instead of beef or sausage. You can definitely use those, but turkey is a much leaner meat which leaves this dish higher in protein and lower in fat.
- Whole wheat pasta – Whole wheat pasta is always a better choice when possible! The whole grains are much better for you and will help to keep you feeling full.
- Less cheese – this healthy baked ziti pasta recipe doesn’t have nearly as much cheese as many other recipes do. I promise you won’t miss it though – it’s perfectly cheesy as is!
Substitutions for This Baked Ziti Ground Turkey
Olive Oil: You can substitute olive oil with avocado oil or melted butter
Meat: You could make this with ground chicken, ground beef, or ground sausage.
Pasta: If you can’t find ziti, rigatoni or penne will work.
Can you use gluten free pasta? Yes! You can use gluten free or regular white flour pasta in this recipe. Just make sure not to overcook the pasta!
Tomato Sauce: You can use homemade tomato sauce or jarred tomato sauce.
Mozzarella/Ricotta: I wouldn’t recommend using low fat mozzarella or ricotta. I think low fat cheese is significantly less creamy and does not have nearly as much flavor or melt as well.
Can you make this baked ziti with spinach? Yes, I have made this with chopped spinach added in and it is delicious.
Can you make this baked ziti with cottage cheese? I haven’t tried this but I think you can swap 1/2 of the ricotta for cottage cheese if you’re looking for a higher protein, lower fat dinner
Can you make baked ziti without meat? If you’d like to, sure! It will not have as much protein, but it will still be yummy!
Making Ahead, Storing & Freezing Baked Ziti
Make Ahead: You can assemble this baked ziti ahead of time. Keep it in the refrigerator and before baking let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes (You don’t want to put a cold dish in the refrigerator because it may crack)
Storing: This baked ziti will last in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Freezing: We do not recommend freezing this baked ziti. It will get watery when you defrost it
Serving Baked Ziti
Baked Ziti is a complete meal in itself so you don’t need to serve it with anything else.
We like to serve it with some garlic bread or extra veggies on the side. Here are some veggie side dishes we like:
- Parmesan Roasted Asparagus
- Green Beans Almondine
- Spinach Strawberry Salad
- Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Baked Ziti FAQ
Baked ziti should be baked covered at first to keep it moist and not dry it out. At the end of cooking, the cover should be removed.
Baked ziti is very different from lasagna. Lasagna is made with long flat noodles that are layered with ground meat, cheese and sauce. Baked ziti is cooked pasta tossed with meat cheese and sauce and baked. If you want a low carb lasagna, we love this Zucchini Lasagna!
Ziti is a medium sized, tubular pasta.
Yes, you can use rigatoni or penne to make baked ziti.
Yes, you can add vegetables to baked ziti. We’d recommend chopped spinach or finely diced carrots.
If you love ground turkey, check out these Healthy Ground Turkey Recipes!
Other healthy pasta dishes:
Looking for other easy meals? Check out these 40+ Healthy Dinner Ideas for Family. Click here to grab our free healthy 30 minute dinners cookbook.
Here are some of our favorite pasta dishes:
Healthy Baked Ziti with Ground Turkey
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb ground turkey or ground beef
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 lb whole wheat ziti
- 2.5 cups tomato sauce 23.5 oz jar – low or no salt added
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella separated
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil chopped
- Preheat oven to 350. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Boil ziti until al dente- approximately 8 minutes. Check your pasta box and I would suggest to cook 3-4 minutes less than the time they recommend. Remember, the pasta will continue to cook in the oven!
- While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a separate pan. Brown the turkey, garlic and pepper until completely cooked (approximately 10 minutes) + set aside.
- In the pot you boiled the pasta, mix together drained pasta, cooked turkey, tomato sauce, 1 cup of mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan cheese, and basil.
- Pour mixture into a large baking dish (13×9 or 11×7) Sprinkle remaining cup of mozzarella cheese on top.
- Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes until cheese is melted.
- Meat: You could make this with sausage or any other type of meat you like. Ground beef or chicken would work.
- Can you make this baked ziti with spinach? Yes, I have made this with chopped spinach added in and it is delicious.
- Can you make this baked ziti with cottage cheese? I haven’t tried this but I think you can swap 1/2 of the ricotta for cottage cheese if you’re looking for a higher protein, lower fat dinner
- Can you make baked ziti without meat? If you’d like to, sure! It will not have as much protein, but it will still be yummy!
- Can you use gluten free pasta? Yes! You can use gluten free or regular white flour pasta in this recipe. Just make sure not to overcook the pasta!
- Can you use low fat ricotta? I would not recommend doing this. I think that low fat ricotta is significantly less creamy and does not have nearly as much flavor.
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