Saturday, November 03, 2012

Baked Whole Wheat Spaghetti Casserole Recipe with Turkey Italian Sausage and Mozzarella

This is my lighter version of Baked Spaghetti Casserole with Whole Wheat Spaghetti, Turkey Italian Sausage, and Low-Fat Mozzarella.

Baked Whole Wheat Spaghetti Casserole with Turkey Italian Sausage and Mozzarella found on

Even when you're committed to healthy eating, once in a while you want something that's pure comfort food, so when I saw the Baked Spaghetti on Budget Bytes, I decided to try creating a South Beach Diet friendly version of this classic recipe.  My recipe uses whole wheat spaghetti, with less spaghetti in proportion to the other ingredients.  I use low-fat Turkey Italian sausage, which still has plenty of flavor. and a pasta sauce with the least amount of sugar I can find.  And I use low-fat cottage cheese and mozzarella, which allows the casserole to have enough cheese to make it really good. 

Jake and I tested this recipe twice to get it just right, and we preferred it with Sweet Turkey Italian Sausage, but you can use the hot sausage if you'd like a bit more spice.   Even with all my adjustments, this is probably still a "once in a while treat" if you're actively losing weight, but on a night when you need some comfort food, this will really seem like a treat. 

I used 8 ounces of my favorite while wheat spaghetti, broken into thirds.  Cook the spaghetti in plenty of salted water until it's barely done (a minute or so less than package directions.)

While spaghetti cooks, heat 2 tsp. olive oil and saute the chopped onion.  When the onion is starting to soften, add the minced garlic and cook a minute or so more.

Add 1 1/4 lb Sweet Turkey Italian Sausage (squeezed out of the links) and saute until the sausage is nicely browned, breaking up the sausage with a turner (or potato masher) while it cooks.  (You might need a little more oil, depending on your pan.)

I didn't have any homemade marinara sauce, so I used this sauce which has only 5 grams of sugar per serving.  For the South Beach Diet, choose the lowest-sugar sauce you can find.
Add the sauce to the cooked sausage and simmer on low until the sauce is very thick, about 15-20 minutes.

Mix the low-fat cottage cheese with the 2 beaten eggs and 1 tsp. Italian seasoning.

You need a casserole dish with high sides for this recipe, and I used my new favorite 8x8 inch dish with 3 inch tall sides.  Spray the dish with non-stick spray and make a layer of half the cooked spaghetti.

Top that with half the sauce/sausage mixture.

Then add half the cottage cheese/egg mixture.

Top with 3/4 cup grated low-fat mozzarella.

Make another layer each of cooked spaghetti, sauce/sausage mixture, cottage cheese/egg mixture, and grated mozzarella.

Bake the casserole at 375F/190C until it's bubbling, cheese is melted and the top is nicely browned, about 30-35 minutes.  Let sit for about 5 minutes before cutting, then serve hot.

Baked Whole Wheat Spaghetti Casserole with Turkey Italian Sausage and Mozzarella
(Makes 8 servings; recipe inspired by Baked Spaghetti at Budget Bytes.)

8 oz. whole wheat spaghetti, broken into thirds (I love Garofalo Organic Whole Wheat Italian Spaghetti)
1 tsp. salt, for pasta cooking water
2-3 tsp. olive oil (depending on your pan)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 T minced garlic (or less)
1 pkg. (5 links - 1 1/2 lb.) Sweet Turkey Italian Sausage
3 cups (24 oz.) homemade or jarred pasta sauce (use the lowest sugar pasta sauce you can find if you're using sauce from a jar)
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. Italian seasoning (a blend of dried basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, and rosemary)
1 1/2 cups grated low-fat Mozzarella (or more, depending on how much comfort you need!)

Preheat oven to 375F/190C.  Spray an 8"x8"x3" casserole dish with non-stick spray. 
Break the spaghetti into thirds.  Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil, add the salt, then add the pasta and cook until pasta is barely done (a little less than package directions.)  Drain pasta well.

While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan with high sides.  Add the onion and saute about 5 minutes, until it's softened and starting to brown.  Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more.  Then add the Sweet Turkey Italian Sausage, squeezing it out of the links.  Cook sausage until it's nicely browned, breaking apart with a turner (or potato masher) as it cooks.  (You might need a little more oil, depending on your pan.)  When the sausage is well-browned add the pasta sauce and cook at a low simmer until the sauce is very thick, about 15-20 minutes.
Stir the beaten eggs and Italian seasoning into the cottage cheese and measure out the grated mozzarella.

In the casserole dish, make layers with 1/2 the cooked spaghetti, 1/2 the reduced sauce/sausage mixture. 1/2 the cottage cheese/egg mixture, and 1/2 the grated Mozzarella.  Make another layer each of spaghetti, sauce/sausage mixture, cottage cheese/egg mixture, and mozzarella.

Bake the casserole uncovered about 30-35 minutes, or until it's bubbling and the top is nicely browned.  Let sit for 5 minutes, then cut into squares and serve.

This freezes well, so you can pull it out on those nights you need some comfort.   It can also be kept in the refrigerator for at least a week.   I reheated it in the microwave for about 2 minutes, but if you don't have a microwave I would reheat in a small glass dish covered with foil.

Printer Friendly Recipe

South Beach Suggestions: 
To make this more friendly for the South Beach Diet, I used low-glycemic whole wheat spaghetti, low-sugar pasta sauce, low-fat turkey Italian sausage, low-fat cottage cheese, and low-fat Mozzarella.  Even with those changes, this is probably a "once in a while treat" for phase 2 of the diet.  You could eat it more often when you reach phase 3.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

More Whole Wheat Pasta Dishes You Might Like:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Beans, Capers, and Balsamic Yogurt Dressing from Cookin' Canuck

Vegetarian Whole Wheat Pasta with Fried Kale, Tomato Sauce, and Goat Cheese from Kalyn's Kitchen

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Spicy Broccoli from Ezra Pound Cake

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Garlic, Chard, and Pecorino-Romano Cheese from Kalyn's Kitchen

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Sauteed Chickpeas and Spinach from Aggie's Kitchen

(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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  1. Oooh, yours looks 100% better than mine! I love what you did with the cheese layer :D

  2. Just reading the recipe makes me feel warm and fuzzy. This is the ultimate comfort food, with less guilt. Can't wait to try it.

  3. Oh Beth, absolutely not. Yours looked great (after all, it inspired me to try it!) I just wanted less pasta and more lower-glycemic ingredients.

    Lydia, loved this; great comfort food.

  4. Even though I'm not on the south beach diet by any means, I also make pasta so that the veggies/mixins outweigh the noodles! Delicious comforting casserole!

  5. Joanne, of course! (Great minds think alike and all that, right?)

  6. OH EM GEE I'm totally gonna be makin this ASAP! Wonder if Dreamfield's spag or angel hair would work as well?

  7. LunaTechChick, I think Dreamfields pasta would work as far as flavor, but when you cook it again it eliminates the low-carb properties of the Dreamfields pastas, so I prefer the whole wheat spaghetti for this.

  8. Kalyn, I just have to say that I doubled the recipe and made two versions: one with whole wheat noodles for the kids and one with spaghetti squash. My husband tried both of them and he even liked the squash one BETTER! I'm really trying to stay in phase 1 for any days that aren't my birthday or Christmas this December :), and I thought this recipe was FANTASTIC. There was a little liquid in the bottom of the casserole dish with the squash, but my hubby and I loved it so much that the squash version is on my meal plan for this week, too.
    Thanks for the great recipe!
    PS- And if you're wanting to try it with spaghetti squash, I really just eye-balled it. I scraped out a layer or squash "noodles" into the bottom, and then another layer in the middle. I only used half of a large squash because that's what I had. DELICIOUS!

  9. Sarah, I LOVE the idea of making this with spaghetti squash. Will definitely try that version!

    And congratulations on your commitment to staying on track at this very hard time of year!


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