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I’m Andrea. I like to cook and bake and take photographs and write about life. Welcome to Bella Eats, where I share these passions of mine with you. I’m glad you’re here.

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"healthified" baked ziti and spinach salad oh my!

Tonight was another "healthify a classic favorite" night!  I can't tell you how happy my hubb was when I told him we were having baked ziti.  Especially since I was planning to use our favorite sweet italian sausage from Babes in the Woods.  This sausage is so good and so lean...I didn't even have to drain any fat out of the pan after I cooked it.  It browned and crumbled perfectly.  I also used fat free ricotta and low-moisture part-skim mozzarella to help lower the fat, and whole grain brown rice pasta instead of semolina...you can't even tell the difference!  Brian said he honestly wouldn't have known that I used fat free ricotta if I hadn't told him...woohoo!  This recipe is so easy...just brown the sausage, boil the noodles, mix everything together and pop it in the oven at 350* for 30 minutes.  Dinner? Done.  Of course, you don't want to have it every night or even every week, but the "healthified" version is much better for you than the original!

"Healthified" Baked Ziti

makes 12 servings

calories: 286  fat: 8.3g  sat fat: 3g  carbs: 37.1g  fiber: 2.4g  sugar: 6.4g  protein: 15.4g


  • 16 oz brown rice penne pasta

  • 1 jar marinara sauce (about 3 cups)

  • 15 oz container of fat free ricotta cheese (I used Sorrento)

  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, browned

  • 1-1/2 cups part-skim low-moisture mozzarella cheese


  1. Boil noodles until al dente and drain.  If using brown rice pasta noodles beware...they only take a few minutes to soften.

  2. Brown sausage on medium heat in non-stick pan.

  3. In large bowl, mix pasta and sausage together.

  4. In smaller bowl, mix together ricotta and marinara sauce.  Pour ricotta/sauce mixture into bowl with pasta and sausage and toss until coated.

  5. Spread mixture in 9x13 pan and top with shredded cheese (I used a bit of cheddar/jack because I ran out of mozzarella).

  6. Pop in oven at 350* for 30 minutes.



Dinner:  I had one serving of ziti, which was PLENTY for me. (Just picture cutting the shorter width into 3 pieces and the long width into 4 pieces).  I think Brian had three...  I also made a giant spinach salad with

  • 3 cups fresh spinach

  • 1/3 cucumber

  • 1/4 yellow bell pepper

  • 1/2 cup hearts of palm (love love love love these!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

  • 1/2 a chopped celery stalk

  • 1 tbsp Ken's Lite Ranch

  • sprinkle of sliced almonds

And a Pellegrino White Cranberry Juice bevi...




And for dessert, my FAVORITE sorbet, Ciao Bella!!!  (in blood orange flavor...yum!)  This stuff is amazing, trust me.  And only 98 calories for 1/2 cup.  Yum.


I am now completely and totally full and satisfied.  :)  Are there any classic favorite comfort food recipes that you've "healthified"?  
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    bella eats - sharing food + photography from charlottesville va - "healthified" baked ziti and spinach salad oh my!

Reader Comments (8)

I love baked ziti!

I can't think of anything I've "healthified" other than substituting healthier versions of the same product, like lower fat dairy, whole grain instead of white flout. That may explain the extra 20 pounds I can't get rid of. :P

12.1.2008 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

I loooove the idea of healthifying comfort foods, but I haven't really gotten around to doing it myself yet - usually I just avoid things altogether, which has its pros and cons. I think the closest I've really come is using whole wheat macaroni for baked macaroni and cheese... but still using like three cups of full-fat cheese (in an 8x8 baking dish!)! Ha, does that count?

12.1.2008 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

Hey just stumbled on your blog, great photography!

Definitely gonna try that salad...

12.2.2008 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

beautiful dish.

12.2.2008 | Unregistered Commentereliza

Looove healthified favorites!! My favorite HAS to be stuffed vegetable dishes (i.e. stuffed tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage...).

12.2.2008 | Unregistered CommenterVeggieGirl

That looks SO decadent and delicious and I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE hearts of palm too! Just grabbed some at the store for my salad last night, as well!

12.2.2008 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Looks so good. I haven't made that in awhile! Thanks for the idea.

As for healthified favorites, I've done mac and cheese, lasagna, chicken pot pie, and a few others.

12.2.2008 | Unregistered CommenterMel

Beautiful colors! I love that ciao bella! :)

12.2.2008 | Unregistered Commentercaroline f

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