Eggplant and Italian Sausage Baked Ziti is a healthier comfort food that’s perfect for an easy weeknight dinner!
Here is a recipe for one of my favorite comfort foods, baked ziti. But this isn’t any ordinary baked ziti. It’s Eggplant and Italian Sausage Baked Ziti and it is loaded with all kinds of goodies! Not only is it full of healthy veggies like eggplant, onions, and tomato sauce (yay lycopene!), but it also has some really amazing venison Italian sausage and wholesome whole wheat penne pasta. To top it all off, it even has two kinds of delicious cheese. Talk about comfort food!
This recipe is actually a version of one of the first meals my sister ever made for my family back when we were kids. My sister didn’t cook as much as I did growing up (she was much more social than I was) but she did make a really delicious eggplant and Italian sausage dish similar to this one a few times that was out of this world! I was thinking about it the other day and thought her recipe would make a perfect baked ziti!
This was relatively quick to throw together with ingredients we usually keep in the house. Since we accidentally turned all of our ground venison that was allotted for breakfast sausage into Italian sausage, we have tons of it. I’ve been coming up with any excuse I can think of to use Italian sausage. Of course, you can always use any kind of Italian sausage, but keep in mind turkey and chicken will have less fat than beef or pork.
We also keep homemade canned spaghetti sauce handy so that we can throw dinner together in a pinch. All I had to do was cook the sausage and veggies (I used the same pan for both), boil some penne, and layer it all in a pan with sauce and delicious cheese. Then into the oven it went while I put together a salad.
This Eggplant and Italian Sausage Baked Ziti was definitely a winner! It’s warm, carby, and cheesy, so you don’t even realize it’s healthy. But it is packed with veggies, whole grains, and lean protein. And one serving only has 5 grams of fat, though you would never know from the taste! This baked ziti would be perfect right now, with all of the cold weather (and blizzards!) keeping you indoors. It’s just the time to make something comforting.
Eggplant and Italian Sausage Baked Ziti is a healthier comfort food that's perfect for an easy weeknight dinner!
- 1 1/2 tsp olive oil, divided
- 1/2 lb lean Italian sausage (I use venison. Turkey and chicken are lean too)
- 1/2 eggplant
- 1/2 onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup part skim ricotta
- 5 basil leaves
- 2 cups cooked whole wheat penne
- 2 cups spaghetti sauce
- 1/2 cup shredded part skim mozzarella
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly oil a 9x 13" baking dish with 1/2 tsp of the olive oil and set aside.
- Prepare penne according to package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- While pasta is cooking, brown the Italian sausage in a medium skillet and cook through. Drain fat and set aside.
- In the same skillet, add the remaining olive oil. Roughly chop eggplant into cubes of equal size. And chopped onion and garlic. Add eggplant, onion and garlic to the skillet with the oil. Heat over medium heat and cook while stirring until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Finely chop basil leaves. In a small bowl, stir together basil and ricotta.
- In the prepared baking dish, layer half of the pasta, Italian sausage, and eggplant mixture, and half of the pasta sauce. Spread ricotta in small dollops over the sauce. Layer remaining pasta, sausage, and eggplant, and pour remaining sauce over the top. Top with mozzarella.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and cheese is lightly browned. Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional basil. Serve hot.
Nutrition calculated using venison sausage.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Let me know in the comments below!