Sunday, 22 November 2015

Protein-Packed Penne Pasta Bake

Protein-Packed Penne Pasta Bake
I went to make cabbage rolls and to my dismay the cabbage had tiny black spots on all the leaves. I'm
usually not to keen on throwing food away but I couldn't bring myself eat this cabbage - I was pretty sure my stomach would rot. Since the beef and turkey were already defrosted it was time to get creative. What could I make with similar ingredients to cabbage rolls? Maybe lasagna? Well I didn't have any lasagna noodles but I did have some high fibre penne pasta! After going to an Italian Restaurant last week and seeing other people order baked pasta I was in the mood for something cheesy and delicious.

After pulling a few more ingredients out of the cupboards I set out to invent my healthy protein-packed penne pasta bake. I started by grating carrots in the food processor with the grater attachment (So much

quicker than by hand!). Carrots add nice flavour to the sauce and fibre and vitamin A - I want my
Grate vegetables in the food processor to save time.
sauces to be filled with nutrients, not just tasty. I then sauteed some garlic and onions because obviously that's how all amazing sauces start.
Sauteeing onions, garlic and mushrooms.
Just like a lasagna I browned the ground meat but I used half beef and half turkey to cut down on the red meat and fat. Then I added spices like oregano, thyme and rosemary. After the meat had browned I added a can of diced tomatoes and half a can of tomato paste (I prefer to use fresh tomatoes to avoid the BPA in canned tomatoes but I didn't have any fresh ones on hand). I mixed this together and at the last minute stirred in the carrot and spinach (more vitamin A!).

The pasta sauce filled with protein and nutrients.

By the way, contrary to popular belief, spinach does not contain much iron. Back in the day someone made an error and put the decimal point in the wrong place when they were reporting the amount of iron in spinach. The value stuck and to this day people think spinach contains a lot of iron! Spinach isn't an empty vegetable though (I'm looking at you iceberg lettuce!) - the vitamin A in spinach is enough to add it to your daily meal - especially if you have skin, hair or eye issues.
The pasta ready for the cheese sauce.

To add in the penne I really didn't want to go through the extra step of boiling it and then baking it but I couldn't find any advice on how to do this online so I went ahead and boiled it then stirred it into the sauce. Then I spread the mixture on a roasting pan (I wasn't sure if the casserole dish would be big enough) and topped it with a new cheese mixture I was trying out. The cheese mixture didn't taste much different from a regular cheese topping but it did stretch out the cheese a lot which saves money and calories. The egg in the mixture adds even more protein to the recipe.

Ready for the oven

Overall the penne bake turned out really tasty and I ended up eating it for the next 7 days straight since it made so much (it's economically conscious too!).
Ready to eat!

Hot out of the oven

Protein-Packed Penne Pasta Bake


  • 1 Cup High Fibre Penne Pasta 
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil  
  • 2-4 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Mushrooms, chopped 
  • 1/2 Lb Ground beef, lean
  • 1/2 Lb Ground turkey 
  • 2 Tbsp Oregano
  • 2 Tbsp Rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp Thyme
  • 1 Can Tomatoes, chopped or 2 Large Tomatoes, chopped 
  • 1 Can Tomato Paste
  • 2 Cups Carrots, grated
  • 2 Cups Baby spinach
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 Cups Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup Milk 
  1. Cook penne according to the al dente directions (slightly under cooked).
  2. Saute onions, garlic and mushrooms in a large sauce pan or wok until transparent (now might be a good time to preheat the oven to 400F).
  3. Add spices, beef and turkey to the pan and saute until browned.
  4. Add tomatoes and tomato paste to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. While it's cooking whisk together egg, cheese and milk and set aside.
  6. Add in carrots and baby spinach to the pan and saute until the spinach looks wilted. 
  7. Spray a casserole dish with olive oil (I have a "misto" from Homesense that sprays olive oil after you pump it so you don't have to buy Pam).
  8. Pour the meat sauce from the pan into the casserole dish and spread it evenly.
  9. Pour the cheese mixture on top of the meat sauce and stick it in the oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is browned and bubbly.
  10. Serve and enjoy! 
PS. Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Tacos and 11 Ways To Actually Complete a Workout Program (This Time)