Baked Penne with Spinach and Turkey Sausage

Fresh spinach and turkey sausage are mixed with whole wheat penne and marinara sauce, then topped with low-fat cheese. YUM! This is one of my husband’s favorite recipes, and I’m sure your family will love it too. Admittedly, this is probably not the healthiest recipe I’ve ever posted, but it is much lower in fat than a traditional baked ziti. I like to load this up with as much fresh spinach as I possibly can. You don’t really taste it much and it helps boost the nutritional profile of the dish. Overall, this baked penne is filling and delicious!!


Added bonus: you can easily make this vegetarian by omitting the turkey sausage.

Baked Penne with Spinach and Turkey Sausage


  • 1 box whole wheat penne
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Fresh spinach roughly chopped-at least 8 oz but up to 16oz. (May substitute chopped frozen spinach)
  • 1 lb mild turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 1 16 oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce (I used Prego’s Roasted Garlic and Herb)
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat grated parmesan
  • 8 oz fat free ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups (8 oz) shredded par-skim mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper

1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add penne and cook according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.

2) Preheat oven to 350F, Spray a 9 x13 pan with cooking spray.

2) Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add sausage and cook thoroughly, using a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the meat into smaller chunks. When sausage is cooked, add chopped spinach and cook until wilted.

4). Pour marinara sauce over pasta. Add spinach/sausage mixture. Add half the mozzarella, and all of the ricotta cheese and parmesan. Pour pasta mixture into baking dish and top with remaining half of mozzarella cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serves 12. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 303 Fat: 10g Carbs: 33g Protein: 23g Fiber: 5.5g

Recipe courtesy of Audrey’s Apron.



Quinoa “Risotto” – Done in 2 steps!

The first time I ever had risotto I was sitting outside the Palacio Real in Madrid with my mom. I was studying abroad in Spain and we spent some time in Madrid together before I headed to Seville for the semester. Anyway, after a long morning of touristy adventures, we decided to stop and enjoy the beautiful afternoon dining at a fine restaurant across the street from the Palacio.

Dining outside in Madrid!

Dining outside in Madrid!

This was our view. Gorgeous.

After perusing the menu, I ordered the mushroom parmesan risotto.

It. was. delicious.

The most incredible risotto of all time.

The most incredible risotto of all time.

In fact, it may be the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. Even though that was 4 years ago, I can still almost taste it now. Isn’t it amazing how food can be so memorable? Or is that just me?

That may also be the first time I was ever inspired to take a picture of my food. I just can’t begin to tell you how amazing it was!

Anyway, I have not yet tried to recreate that exact dish for fear nothing will ever come close. I also try to not go crazy eating large amounts of white rice. There just isn’t a lot there nutritionally.

Enter: QUINOA!
(Pronounced KEEN-WAH)

You can buy quinoa in bulk for a great price at Costco!

You can buy quinoa in bulk for a great price at Costco!

Quinoa has AMAZING health benefits. It is an ancient seed originating from Bolivia, and in the last few years there it has exploded in popularity across the nation.

One of the biggest appeals of quinoa is that it is GLUTEN FREE! I know many people who have gluten allergies, and if you do, quinoa is a perfect replacement for pasta. I am not gluten intolerant, but I choose to eat it because it is sooooo much better for you than flour-laden pasta/couscous. It also cooks in about 15 minutes, making it a convenient option even on a weeknight.

Here are a couple important nutrition facts about quinoa:

  • It is a complete protein, containing all 9 amino acids! (This makes it one of the most protein-rich foods you can eat!)
  • It is high in fiber, iron, magnesium, B vitamins, and antioxidants.
  • Depending on the brand you use, there are only 130-155 calories in a cup of cooked quinoa!

If you’ve never tried quinoa, I think this is the perfect recipe to use to give it a try. The quinoa absorbs the sauce much like rice does in a risotto. This recipe is much easier than traditional risotto because you do not have to stand over the pot  adding broth, stirring constantly. Once you’ve cooked your quinoa, all you have to do is heat the broth/marinara sauce, and mix in the quinoa and cheese. Easier and better for you!? I am a fan!

Healthy Quinoa Risotto!

Healthy Quinoa Risotto!

And, so is my husband! He usually doesn’t love quinoa recipes as much as I do, but he loved this one! So, if you’ve been trying to acquire a taste for quinoa, give this recipe a try. It just might surprise you!!

Quinoa “Risotto” – 2 steps!


  • 4 cups cooked quinoa (according to package directions)
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth (or veggie if you’re not a meat eater!)
  • 1/4 cup pecorino romano, grated
  • 1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce

1) Heat sauce and chicken stock in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.

2) Combine with cooked quinoa and cheese. Mix well. Top with extra cheese if desired.

Servings: Four big 1 cup servings or eight 1/2 cup servings.
Approximate Nutritional Information per 1 cup serving: Calories: 221 Carbs: 41g Fat: 8g Protein: 18 g Sugar: 6g
Recipe adapted from


I served this quinoa risotto as a side to roasted broccoli and pan-seared chicken breast. So filling and delicious! This “risotto” goes well as a side to any meal with Italian flavors.