A Cheesy, Beefy Casserole With a Veggie Twist

If you’re anything like me, following a strict diet never ever works. You’ll hold on to it for a while – a week, maybe even two, but then it hits you. That bittersweet craving for pasta. And that’s when you go and get the creamiest, cheesiest pasta in town, no matter how many calories…


I’ve decided not to do that anymore. Instead, I’ll give myself permission to eat pasta every now and then – as long as it’s a lighter and healthier version. This is such a delicious recipe you won’t even know the difference. In fact, I always add a bunch of extra veggies to make it even lighter!




  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large zucchini, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef (7% fat or less)
  • 4 cups cooked whole wheat penne (about 2 1/4 cups dry)
  • 2 cups low fat marinara sauce (2g fat or less)
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil




Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with nonstick spray.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the vegetables and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until softened, approximately 5 minutes.  Remove the vegetables to a bowl and set aside.  Add the ground beef to the pan and cook, breaking it apart with a spatula, until browned- 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the cooked vegetables, pasta and sauce to the pan and mix to combine.  Spoon the mixture into the casserole dish.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake until the cheese is melted and the filling is hot and bubbly- 20 to 25 minutes.  Sprinkle fresh basil on top and serve.





Quick Tip: Add more of your favorite veggies to make this casserole even healthier!

Thanks to Recipe Girl for this easy weeknight casserole you can feel good about.

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