Made healthier this casserole will become a staple in your home – kids love it too!
Whole grain pasta, fresh kale (or spinach), extra lean ground turkey topped with a reasonable amount of part skim mozzarella cheese and baked until golden. This dish is perfect for a fairly quick weeknight meal, leftovers the next day and a meal prep. You could even assemble the casserole and freeze with plastic wrap on top. When ready to eat, bake from frozen and increase baking time by 15 – 20 minutes. I remember when I was pregnant and almost due, I stocked up my freezer with similar casseroles. Helped a lot!
In my household everyone loves pasta with cheese, I bet in yours too. I’m not a huge pasta lover but my kids are, shocking, right?! I just knew that I could sneak in a bunch of kale in this casserole and nobody would complain. Yep, I was right.
Today you can find many healthy pastas at great price. Plus many of them are organic. Even gluten free pasta variety is huge: brown rice, quinoa etc. There is even black bean pasta. So, you can make pretty healthy pasta dish.:)
Many people are scared of pasta because of the carbs and heavy sauces. Here is my take on it: whole grain pasta made with tomato sauce and a little bit of cheese will not hurt you if eaten in moderation. I mean once in a few weeks 1 – 1.5 cups. Remember, one bad meal won’t make you fat, just like one healthy meal won’t make you skinny.
Whole grain pasta has more fiber than white pasta that has been stripped of nutrients. Simple carbohydrates like white pasta and rice cause high spikes of insulin thus inhibiting fat storage. I learnt that my body need good carbs to prevent me from overeating other food and thus going over my daily calorie intake. I do not count calories but I know what food I need to eat and when.
This pasta bake turned out delicious and very moist. I managed to sneak in a whole bunch of Lacinato kale, which is a nutritional powerhouse. Kale is full of fiber, iron and antioxidants. I could see how this casserole would be a perfect candidate for going bad box of spinach.
The casserole is large and serves 8 people. You could easily freeze the leftovers. I hope you and kids enjoy!
- 3 cups (9 oz) whole wheat penne/fusilli pasta, dry (use certified GF for GF version)
- 1 tsp olive oil, extra virgin
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 lbs ground turkey, extra lean
- 28 oz tomato sauce (I used organic Kirkland)
- 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
- 1 cup pasta water
- 1 tbsp italian herb seasoning (oregano or basil), dried
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 4 - 5 cups kale (1 bunch), stem removed & chopped
- 2 cups (5 oz) low fat mozzarella cheese, shredded & divided
- 1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped (for garnish)
- Cook pasta al dente as per package instructions, undercooking by 4 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water and set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Preheat large skillet on medium heat and add olive oil. Add onion and garlic, saute for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add turkey and cook for another 7 minutes, breaking meat into pieces and stirring occasionally. Add tomato sauce, honey, pasta water, herb seasoning, salt, pepper, kale and stir. Add previously cooked pasta and stir again.
- Transfer half of the mixture in 9" x 13" baking dish and sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese. Top with remaining mixture and sprinkle with remaining 1 + 1/4 cups cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and broil until cheese is golden brown. Serve hot garnished with parsley if desired.
Servings Per Recipe: 8
Amount Per Serving = 1 + 1/3 cups:
Total Fat: 4.7 g
Cholesterol: 51.2 mg
Sodium: 868.8 mg
Total Carbs: 38.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.9 g
Protein: 40.0 g
WW Points+: 9