Healthy pizza pasta bake
• 1 12-ounce box of “veggie” farfalle (like Barilla)
• 1 jar of 100 percent all-natural, no-salt-added tomato sauce (like Hunts)
• 1 can all-natural, no-salt-added diced tomatoes, drained
• 1 cup shredded fat-free, low-sodium mozzarella cheese,
• 1 cup fat-free sour cream
• 1 pound ground lean turkey
• 1 small onion, diced
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 tablespoon no-salt-added pizza herbs (or a half tablespoon each basil and oregano)
• Approximately 20 slices of turkey pepperoni
• 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
• 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken, beef or vegetable stock
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees .
2. Brown the onion, garlic, herbs and ground turkey in a skillet and drain well. While meat is browning, start water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions, drain.
3. Return turkey to skillet, add diced tomatoes and cook for five minutes. Next, add sour cream, stir well and cook for an additional few minutes. Add drained pasta to skillet and mix until pasta is thoroughly coated.
4. Transfer the pasta and turkey mixture to a 13x9-inch baking pan or casserole dish and spread evenly. Top the pasta evenly with the tomato sauce. Arrange pepperoni slices over the casserole, top the slices with shredded cheese and then sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Carefully pour stock evenly over entire casserole.
5. Cover with foil and bake casserole for about 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is bubbly and golden (between five and 15 minutes).
6. Remove from oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes prior to serving.
Serves eight to 10.
• Keep preparation time to a minimum by measuring ingredients and bagging them separately the night or morning before. You’ll be ready to cook right away with less clean up, too.
• Much like traditional pizza, you can add variety to this recipe by selecting different “toppings.” If certain family members have different tastes, you can put different toppings on each half of the casserole to satisfy everyone. Try these ideas:
- Veggie lover — Go all veggie by omitting meat and adding lots of fresh produce, such as red and green peppers, mushrooms, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, asparagus tips, fresh basil and artichokes.
- Hawaiian — Omit pepperoni and add low-sodium ham slices or chunks and fresh pineapple pieces.
- Meat lovers — Add browned ground chicken, buffalo, turkey sausage or uncured bacon crumbles. Be careful — each meat item you add will increase the recipe’s fat, calories and sodium.
- Make your own — choose your own toppings and get creative. Have the kids help you top the casserole before putting it in the oven. Just be sure to use certain toppings sparingly; children don’t always pick the healthiest foods.
Last time, I talked about the wealth of recipes available online and how they don’t always have your health in mind. Sometimes it seems that the easier a recipe is to prepare, the more unhealthy it is.
Many of the recipes that I have come across — especially those that are labeled “quick and easy” — are made completely with ingredients that are heavily processed.
If you are not checking labels carefully, that easy recipe could pack some serious calories, fat, sodium and preservatives. There is a way to have it both ways — eat healthier while preparing meals that are quick and easy. The first step is to read labels carefully and make healthier selections in the store.
When purchasing canned goods or jarred sauces, always opt for the “no salt added” varieties. Compare labels and see for yourself. When you see the difference in sodium between regular varieties and no-salt added products, you’ll never go back to regular again. Also look for all-natural or low- or no-preservative varieties. Dairy products, such as cheese, contain high amounts of fat and sodium. Select skim, part-skim or fat-free instead of whole-milk cheese.
I previously wrote about substituting ground turkey for beef in a meatball recipe. It is a much healthier option and cuts out a lot of fat and calories. Try ground turkey in other meat dishes, such as meatloaf or tacos. But be sure to select lean ground turkey, and drain it well after browning it.
I am going to break down a popular recipe, pizza casserole, which I have seen several times recently on Facebook and Pinterest. It definitely is an easy recipe that families are sure to enjoy. Accounting for the fact that this recipe could be made with a variety of tomato sauce, cheese and pepperoni, I estimate the casserole packs more than 3,709 calories, 1024.4 grams of fat and 5271.3 milligrams of sodium!
My recipe starts off with pasta made of vegetables instead of egg noodles, which have more fat and cholesterol. I then halved the amount of sauce in this recipe and selected an all-natural brand, which cuts out lots of sodium and preservatives. Don’t worry about this recipe being too dry — the stock you’ll pour over the top helps to maintain moisture. The added tomatoes boost the flavor of the dish while contributing a dose of lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant known to help fight diseases like cancer.
As for the cheese, I cut it down to one-third of the original amount called for and chose a fat-free variety, thus reducing fat and calories. Using fat-free sour cream keeps the dish’s creamy consistency without having to rely on extra cheese.
Reading labels and watching what you put in your grocery cart will help you steer clear of unnecessary fat, calories, sodium and preservatives. And always opt for fresh ingredients as opposed to canned or boxed products.