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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Baked Eggplant and Turkey Rotini

For a healthier alternative to baked ziti, I made this with ground turkey instead of ground beef or sausage and added some eggplant because vegetables are a lot better for you than pasta. I also used whole wheat pasta instead. Because I thought I had homemade pasta sauce but then realized I only had meat sauce, I used Prego Heart Smart Traditional marinara sauce but you can use any marinara sauce you like.

Baked Eggplant and Turkey Rotini

1/2 pound lean ground turkey
6 oz whole wheat rotini or other short cut pasta
2.5 cups marinara sauce
1 cup onion, diced (I used red but white works just as well)
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 - 1 eggplant, chopped (mine was pretty large so I only used half)
2 T olive oil
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp salt (plus more for salting pasta water)
1/2 cup cheese, shredded (I used a mix of 1/4 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a large pot of water over high heat until boiling. Add salt and pasta and stir. Cook until just al dente, do not overcook since you are going to continue baking. Drain pasta and add to a large bowl.

While water boils, heat a skillet over medium high heat. When hot add ground turkey and brown, crumbling with a wooden spatula as it cooks, add 1/2 tsp fennel seed while it cooks. When cooked through, remove from heat and transfer to large bowl and add marinara sauce.

In the same skillet, heat 1 T olive oil and add garlic and onion. Cook about 2 minutes and add green peppers. Add about half of crushed red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning and cook about 2-3 minutes more. Transfer to bowl with ground turkey. Add remaining olive oil to skillet and heat. Add eggplant, salt, and remaining fennel seed and Italian seasoning. Cook about 5 minutes until slightly softened and transfer to bowl. Toss mixture together gently until well combined and transfer to a baking dish (I used an 8x8 square pan but any similar size baking dish will do just make sure its 2-3 inches deep).

Top pasta mixture with cheese and bake for about 15 minutes until cheese begins to melt. At this point, I switch the oven to broil and let the top brown for a few minutes. You can also just continue cooking an additional 5-10 minutes if you prefer. If you do broil it, watch it carefully so you don't burn the tips of the pasta.

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