This is my lightened-up version of a comfort food favorite. Chock full of seasonal vegetables, this dish features reduced-fat cheese as well as vegetarian crumbles instead of ground beef or sausage. And by using gluten-free rice pasta, you reduce that “bloated” feeling you get after eating a heavy pasta meal. I served it with a tasty mixed greens salad tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Enjoy this heart-healthy dinner and treat yourself to a glass of white wine with all the calories you’ve saved!
- 1 package whole wheat or rice pasta
- 1 onion, chopped
- olive oil
- cooking spray for your casserole dish
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- vegetarian meat crumbles (such as Morningstar meal starters)
- 2 green bell peppers, diced (you could use any color)
- salt & Italian seasoning to taste (about 1 tsp.)
- 1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups mushrooms or another seasonal veggie (I used up a zucchini)
- 1/2 cup shredded part skim mozzarella
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup torn basil leaves
- 3/4 cup water
Set a large pot of water on to boil. Cook pasta until it’s a few minutes away from being done, as it will continue cooking in the casserole dish and you don’t want it to fall apart. Drain and set aside.
In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion once it’s hot, stirring frequently until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant, and then the vegetarian crumbles. Stir in the bell peppers and the mushrooms (or zucchini, like I did) and Italian seasoning & salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softening (about another 5 minutes).
Add the crushed tomatoes, water, and basil, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and cook, simmering, another 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce thickens.
Preheat the oven to 375 and spray a casserole dish or 9×13 glass baking pan.
Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to combine with the sauce.
Spoon half the spaghetti mixture into the casserole dish, then sprinkle half the cheese on top. Repeat with the other half of the spaghetti and cheese.
Cover loosely with foil sprayed with cooking spray and cook 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly. (Don’t let the foil touch the cheese!)
Let stand for five minutes and serve hot.
What makes this healthier:
- Not using butter to grease the pan or cook any of the ingredients.
- Substituting lower-fat cheese without sacrificing flavor.
- Replacing ground beef or sausage with my favorite vegetarian crumbles, by Morningstar (these have not only great flavor but believable texture, which is key for recreating dishes you may have grown up with).
- Whole wheat or rice pasta (which I prefer because it’s gluten free, keeping my stomach pain-free with the added bonus of preventing bloat).
- Serving with a side salad instead of outdoing your pasta portion!
I really hope you enjoy this. It’s adapted from a Bobby Deen recipe I found in Food Network Magazine, and has made its way into our regular meal rotation.