A simple, healthy lunch or dinner ready in about 30 minutes. This healthier baked ziti is the perfect comfort food and is perfectly spicy.
I’ve only had traditional baked ziti once, and it was straight awful. Granted, I’ve never been a huge fan of tomatoes or the retched sauce they make from it, but still.
I haven’t been brave enough to try making it myself until my sister made some other kind of pasta dish the other day <without any tomato sauce>. And it actually tasted good. It was that moment when I knew I had to try to make my own version of baked ziti—without the sauce.
So I started tossing things together: sausage, noodles, kale, roasted garlic, etc. Well, actually that etc. is just cheese. Because what’s a pasta dish without cheese. A LIE, that’s what.
By now, you probably already know how much I love spicy food.
I mean, I add hot sauce and sriracha to just everything and I never pass up a chance to add jalapeno’s to something. It’s already been established that spicy=YUM!
So I knew I wanted to incorporate some of the spicy flavor I’m totally obsessed with into this dish. Looking at my cabinet I saw red pepper flakes that were dying to be used. I was thinking about adding hot sauce, but I think that would have been TOO much spiciness.
And now that I think about it, I should have added pickled jalapeños! Yeah, I’m a jalapeño junkie.
The problem with not adding sauce to baked ziti is—there’s really nothing to hold it together. No tomato-y substance that binds the whole thing together.
UNLESS you add mass amounts of cheese! Nah, I’m just kidding. A little goes a long way. <– I like to forget about that when I make mac n’ cheese.
But seriously, the cheese is all that’s holding this spicy sausage and kale baked ziti together. So in order to keep things from falling apart, you have to layer. Noodle mixture, cheese, noodle mixture, cheese. (And then you can put a little extra cheese on top if you’re feeling spunky).
So, I used penne noodles, because guess what? I didn’t have ziti noodles. Please don’t hate me. I figured penne was close kin to ziti, so I just used penne noodles. No big deal, right?
I mean it when I say you guys are going to LOVE (♥) this spicy sausage and kale baked ziti. It’s savory, cheesy, noodle-y, meaty, healthy, inexpensive to make, and downright delicious.
Here’s the recipe:
- 1 (1 lb.) box penne noodles (or ziti noodles)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 lb. plain pork sausage
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (or roasted garlic)
- 1½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 ribs of kale, de-ribbed and roughly chopped
- 2 - 2½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Add the salt to a pot of water and bring it to a boil. Add in the noodles and cook according to package instructions.
- While the noodles are cooking, start browning the sausage in a large saute pan over medium heat. Break up any large chunks. Add in the minced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
- Drain the cooked pasta into a colander and return the noodles to the pan. Add in the sausage mixture and kale and stir to combine. Let the heat from the noodles and sausage wilt the kale.
- Pour half of the baked ziti mixture into a 13x9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese on top. Pour the other half of the baked ziti mixture into the pan and top with another cup of cheese, making sure to spread it evenly. You can add extra cheese to the top if you'd like. You can also sprinkle on a little extra red pepper flakes.
- Place the pan into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese on top is starting to brown and the baked ziti is heated through. Serve and enjoy.
Looking for more healthy dinner inspiration?
These Savory Hibiscus Chicken Enchiladas from Buddha Teas taste amazing! They’re a fiesta of flavor and an incredibly easy meal that anyone can make! For a quick dinner, serve these enchiladas with tortilla chips and fresh salsa.