This is a super easy and quick meal! Baked ziti w/ ground turkey and homemade pesto takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. I save this meal for my busy weeknights when I have zero time to cook, but want to make sure I am making a healthy meal for myself and for my family. It is very important to me that I serve my family healthy options, especially now that I am a Mother. My toddler is extremely picky, so that's not always easy for me to find meals she likes. Even though, she wasn't the biggest fan of the pesto sauce she did like the baked ziti, but instead I just mixed hers with some himalayan salt and a little unsalted butter.
Whole wheat baked ziti w/ homemade pesto sauce is a must try recipe 🙂 Anything homemade is a million times better for you, too. I'm sure you already know that, but it's always nice to have a reminder. All those packaged foods are full of processed ingredients and we all know we need to stay away from processed foods as much as we can. So, anything homemade will obviously help with that!
Ingredients to make this dish
For the pesto you will need 2 cups of fresh basil, 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped, 1 ½ cups scallions, chopped, 1 cup frozen peas, ¼ cup pine nuts, ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, juice from ½ a lemon, ¼ cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper. For the main dish you will need ¹/³ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 pound uncooked whole wheat ziti or penne, and we can't forget my favorite ingredient 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced. Also, if you are looking to add some protein to your meal add 1 pound of cooked ground turkey.
Directions to make this meal
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. To make the pesto add to a blender or food processor and pulse basil, garlic, scallions, peas, pine nuts, ¼ cup Parmesan, lemon juice, salt and pepper until combined, about 15 seconds. With the processor running, slowly add olive oil and process until pureed, adding water if necessary to thin out pesto. If you are looking for a food processor to purchase this is the one I have. We got it as a gift at my bridal shower 5 years ago and it has lasted me this long with no issues. If you are looking for a less expensive one I recommend any Cuisinart brand like this one here. If you would prefer a blender, this is the one I have and also haven't had any issues with it. I like this one in particular because I am a fan of smoothies and it has a smoothie blender too.
To make the main dish, in a large bowl, toss together pesto, penne, ground turkey (optional) ,and ½ cup water. Spread half the penne mixture in a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish and top with half the mozzarella. Pour ½ cup water over casserole, and add remaining penne mixture and top with remaining mozzarella. Pour 1 cup water over casserole, cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 1 hour.
Remove foil and turn on the broiler. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan over casserole and broil 5 minutes, or until cheese is brown and bubbling.
Baked Ziti with Ground Turkey and Homemade Pesto
- casserole dish
- non-stick frying pan
- blender or food processor
- large mixing bowl
- 2 cups fresh basil chopped
- 2 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
- 1 ½ cups scallions chopped
- 1 cup frozen peas
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- ½ lemon
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 1 lb whole wheat ziti or penne uncooked
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella sliced
- 1 lb ground turkey cooked
- Preheat oven to 350°. To make the pesto: In a blender or food processor add basil, garlic, scallions, peas, pine nuts, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pulse until combined, about 15 seconds.
- While food processor or blender is still running slowly pour in the olive oil until pureed, adding water if necessary to thin out pesto.
- For the main dish: in a large mixing bowl, toss together pesto, penne or ziti, ground turkey, and ⅓ cup water. Spread half the penne mixture in a 9 x 13 in casserole dish. Top with half the mozzarella cheese. Pour ½ cup water over casserole and add remaining penne or ziti mixture and top with the rest of the mozzarella cheese. Pour another ½ cup water over casserole and tightly cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour.
- Remove from oven and take off foil. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese and broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese is brown and bubbling.