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Paula Deen Cuts the Fat, 250 Favorite Recipes All Lightened Up, Exclusive: Baked Ziti

By Paula Deen

Baked ziti is one of those satisfying, decadent dishes that whole families just crave. And mine is no different. Jamie and Brooke love when I feed Jack and Matthew this meal because now I bake it with healthy kale right in the mix. This ziti is meaty, cheesy, and packed with vitamins. I’m not sure who loves it more—the kiddos or Grandma!


  • 1 pound whole-wheat or regular ziti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 pound lean bulk Italian-style turkey or pork sausage or use sausage links and squeeze the meat out of the casings
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 can (28 ounces) no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups loosely packed chopped fresh kale (3 to 4 large leaves)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese 


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F.
  2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the ziti according to the package directions. Drain well.
  3. In a large deep skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and add the sausage meat. Cook, breaking the sausage up with a wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes, or until the meat is no longer pink. Remove the sausage from the skillet with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a paper towel–lined plate to drain.
  4. Add the onion, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and thyme to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked sausage and the kale. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cooked pasta, and stir in the ricotta. Pour the mixture into a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and then the Parmesan. Bake until the cheese is melted and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

Serves 8


More about Paula Deen Cuts the Fat, 250 Recipes All Lightened Up

Paula Deen has lost over 40 pounds and has maintained her weight loss for over two years by swapping out ingredients to reduce fat and calories. Paula’s key to weight loss is moderation and accountability, and one day a week she still enjoys good old southern cooking with biscuits and all. One does not have to give up taste when reducing calories, and these recipes are a testament to that. Paula shares 250 of her favorite recipes lightened up. This brand-new, New York Times best selling cookbook presents lightened up versions of fifty of her classic southern recipes and presents new recipes that cut the calories but not the delicious taste.

The New-York Times Best-Selling cookbook, Paula Deen Cuts the Fat, 250 Favorite Recipes All Lightened Up, is now available now at Amazon, Costco, Barnes & Noble, Target, and your local bookstores!


Paula Deen - As a young girl growing up in Albany, Georgia, Paula Deen never dreamed she would become an American icon. As a young mother, Paula was living the American dream — married to her high school sweetheart and raising two adorable boys — when tragedy struck. Her parents died, her marriage failed and she began a prolonged battle with agoraphobia. With her boys in their teens and her family near homelessness, Paula took her last $200, reached deep inside her soul and started The Bag Lady, a home-based catering company that marked the start of Deen's professional cooking career. With sons Jamie and Bobby delivering lunch-and-love-in-a-bag, beginning in June 1989, Paula turned her life around by sharing what she knew best, traditional Southern cooking.