A healthier spin on the classic baked ziti layered with melty mozzarella and parmesan cheese. The homemade tomato sauce incorporates ground turkey breast and a serving of spinach and shredded carrots to make this a family-friendly, balanced, and low-cost way to feed a crowd!
Baked pasta dishes are some of my favorite dinner time-savers because they are easy to make in advance, hearty, and filling and almost always give me leftovers to serve another time!
And what’s even better is when you can work in a protein and vegetable, as I have done with this Baked Ziti recipe, making this a one-stop-shop dinner time solution! No side dishes required!
Baked Ziti Tips for Success:
There are two very common ways that a Baked Ziti can go wrong, not enough sauce and overcooked noodles. Or worse- both!!
To solve the mushy noodle dilemma, I recommend boiling the noodles to under al dente. Al dente is the perfect way to eat pasta, soft but just a little bite left to it.
However, for the purpose of baked pasta, I want you to cook it even less than al dente. Cook it to the amount where you actually wouldn’t want it. I know that sounds weird, but when baking in the oven the ziti actually continues to cook, and so starting that second “boil” in the sauce in an undercooked state will leave you with a perfectly cooked final dish!
Which brings me to my next point, dry baked ziti! Because the pasta will unavoidably continue to cook while baking in the oven, a portion of the sauce used will be absorbed into the noodles.
So, my recipe uses a generous amount of sauce in order to counteract the amount of sauce you will lose while baking!
Steps to make Turkey Baked Ziti with Spinach & Carrots
Saute onion and carrots. Then the garlic and ground turkey.
Add red wine and let boil and reduce.
Add canned tomatoes + seasonings and herbs. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile boil pasta to very al dente. Drain and add to sauce along with ricotta cheese and spinach. Stir to combine. Top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese
Transfer to large baking dish and bake until cheese is melty and golden brown.
Remove from oven and serve immediately.
Turkey Baked Ziti with Spinach & Carrots
- 1 lb ground turkey meat i used turkey breast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ¾ cup yellow onion chopped
- 3 clove garlic minced
- ¾ cup carrot shredded
- 7 oz fresh spinach a package of frozen is ok too!
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 28 oz can of peeled whole tomatoes San Marzano preferred
- 15 oz can of tomato puree or sauce San Marzano preferred
- ¼ cup dry red wine
- 1 lb pasta tube shaped like ziti or rigatoni
- 1 tsp kosher salt or more, to taste
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley or 1 tbsp dried parsley
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil or 1 tsp dried basil
- Preheat oven to 400°F
- Heat olive oil in large skillet, over medium heat. Add onion and grated carrots and saute til softened, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add minced garlic and saute 1 minute. Then add ground turkey and cook throughout. stirring to break up clumps, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add wine and let boil for about 2 minutes
- Add whole tomatoes and tomato puree/sauce to skillet. Use a spoon to break up whole tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, basil, and parsley. Simmer sauce for 20 minutes over medium-low heat.
- Boil water and cook pasta to just barely al dente. Cooking will continue will pasta is baking, so undercooking with prevent an overcooked, mushy final result. When done, drain pasta and set aside.
- Taste test your sauce and make any adjustments to seasoning. Add spinach leaves, let wilt. Add undercooked pasta and ricotta cheese to skillet. Stir to incorporate.
- Pour into your prepared large baking dish. Layer the top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Cook baked ziti and bake in the oven until and cheese is melted, gooey, and bubbly. Should be less than 20 minutes.
- If you would like to brown top layer, bump up temperature to 450° for less than 5 minutes and stay close by to montior and prevent burning.
- Serve immediately and ENJOY.