When you find yourself craving a hearty and decadent pasta dish, don't head out to your local Italian eatery -- make this! It's got real pasta and LOADS of flavor, plus it's much lighter than anything you'll pick up at a trattoria.
Ingredients: 5 oz. (about 1 1/2 cups) uncooked whole-wheat or high-fiber ziti or penne pasta 1 cup thinly sliced onion 2 cups chopped brown mushrooms 1 tbsp. chopped garlic 2 cups fresh spinach 3/4 cup low-fat/light ricotta cheese 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided 2 tbsp. reduced-fat Parmesan-style grated topping
Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Prepare pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain well, place in a large bowl, and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring an extra-large skillet sprayed with nonstick spray to medium heat on the stove. Add onion and, stirring occasionally, cook until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic, and raise temperature to medium high. Continue to cook, stirring often, until mushrooms are soft, about 3 minutes.
Add spinach to the skillet and, stirring often, cook until spinach has wilted and excess moisture has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in ricotta cheese and basil.
Transfer contents of the skillet to the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add tomatoes and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Toss gently to mix.
Spray an 8" X 8" baking pan with nonstick spray, and carefully fill with contents of the bowl. Evenly top with Parm-style topping and remaining 2 tbsp. mozzarella cheese.
Bake in the oven until entire dish is hot and cheese on top has melted, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, and then serve and enjoy!
Oh, pasta. Why the cruelty? So delicious, so comfortingly starchy, yet so calorie dense. MEAN! And when pasta is loaded up with rich sauces and cheese -- a.k.a. the delicious stuff -- things get even worse. Before you know it, you're up to your collo (that's Italian for neck) in calories. For example, order Olive Garden's Five Cheese Ziti al Forno and -- presto! -- you've got over a thousand calories and nearly 50g fat sitting in front of you. Other places and homemade recipes aren't much better -- just LOOK at the average stats below! So make HG's Takes-the-Cake Ziti Bake in the comfort of your own cucina; use lightened-up cheeses, lots of veggies, and pasta with extra fiber. See? Just because you're eating pasta baked with tasty things, it doesn't mean you're eating a bazillion calories; it just means you've got a fantastic no-guilt recipe. Bravo!
CHEW ON THIS: This past Sunday, October 17th, was National Pasta Day. Celebrating a couple of days late isn't a crime -- bake up some HG-style ziti and EAT! Yummm...
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