This January marks the eighth year that I’ve been doing Weight Watchers. While my weight has fluctuated since reaching my goal and I’m now actively trying to lose weight again, I really feel like it was joining Weight Watchers that prompted me to learn how to cook and get creative in the kitchen. Because before Weight Watchers? Our meals were pretty much take out, stir fry or pasta.
Pasta showed up on the menu at least once a week. I’d make a whole box (!!!) and my husband and I would split it. He’d put lots of sauce on his, while I’d put a little bit of sauce and a mountain of grated Parmesan on mine. I was under the impression that a ginormous bowl of pasta was a typical serving–after all, that’s what most restaurants serve, right? It was a shock to find out that those big boxes of pasta that my husband and I were eating by ourselves are meant to serve eight people. Oops.
One of the first changes I made when I joined Weight Watchers was downsizing those pasta portions. But clearly, two ounces of pasta alone just wasn’t going to cut it. So I started adding vegetables to our pasta. Lots of them. This makes that paltry two ounces of pasta go much further. And you know what? It tastes so much better that way too. Using this same philosophy, I revamped my baked ziti recipe, something I occasionally made pre-Weight Watchers–my original version had massive amounts of cheese and pasta. This version, Vegetable Baked Ziti, has a smaller amount of reduced-fat cheese and fat-free ricotta mixed in to give the casserole a creamy texture. By adding lots of sauteed veggies, each serving contains less than two ounces of pasta. But it’s so good, you won’t miss that extra pasta or cheese at all!
Baked ziti doesn't have to be over-loaded with cheese to taste good! My recipe has a creamy sauce, thanks to the addition of fat-free ricotta, and lots of sauteed veggies.
- cooking spray or oil mister
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 8 oz. button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 8 oz. whole wheat pasta (penne and rotini work well), cooked al dente according to package
- 1 large jar marinara sauce (about 24 ounces)
- 1-15 oz. container of fat-free ricotta cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 c. reduced-fat Italian blend cheese (or mozzarella)
- 1 tbsp. chopped parsley (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray or oil mister.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add zucchini and mushrooms and cook until softened and liquid has boiled off, about 7 minutes more. Remove from heat.
- Add pasta, marinara sauce, ricotta, salt, and pepper to skillet with vegetables. Stir until well combined.
- Pour pasta mixture into baking dish. Top with cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley before serving, if desired.