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Joy Bauer's Baked Ziti Casserole

Nathan Congleton / TODAY
Cook Time:
30 mins
Prep Time:
20 mins

Chef notes

Cheesy, saucy, noodle-y and satisfying, this lightened-up version will not disappoint. Just imagine: whole-grain penne tossed with ground meat, three different cheeses (mozzarella, ricotta and Parm) and flavorful tomato sauce, then baked to perfection in the oven. I also sneak in some spinach for added nutrition and fiber. It's baked-ziti bliss.


  • 1 box whole grain ziti or penne noodles
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey (at least 90% lean)
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 10 ounces frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 to 1½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella, divided
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta
  • 1 jar (24 ounces) marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan



Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Liberally coat a 9x13 casserole dish with nonstick oil spray, and set aside.


Cook pasta to al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta and set aside. 


In a large pan, cook the ground turkey, using a wooden spoon to break the meat into crumbles. Add onion powder and garlic powder. Stir frequently, pouring small amounts of pasta water into the pan to help incorporate browned bits from bottom. Once browned, remove from the stove.


In a separate bowl, blend the drained spinach, egg, egg white, ricotta, basil and oregano. Add to the ground turkey mixture and combine. Add 1 cup of the mozzarella, all the marinara sauce and cooked ziti. Mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 


Spoon ziti mixture into the casserole dish. Cover pan loosely with foil paper and place in oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and divide remaining mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese evenly over each. Place back in the oven uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes until cheese is golden brown. 


Remove from oven and enjoy.