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Italian High Protein Pasta Bake Recipe – Easy & Cheesy

This Italian-style High Protein Pasta Bake Recipe is the ultimate macro-friendly comfort food! This easy, healthy dinner is saucy, cheesy, hearty, and delicious while packing nearly 40 grams of protein per serving. It’s a dinner that kids and adults alike will beg for!

wooden spoon pulling out slice of high protein pasta bake from pan

There is nothing better than a hearty pasta bake! It is filling, satisfying, and rich. However, it isn’t always the healthiest meal to make, that is, until now!

I wanted to create a healthy baked ziti that was generous in portion size while keeping calories in check. I knew I needed to make this recipe high in lean protein and fiber and lower in fat. 

Thankfully, the carefully selected ingredients in this recipe made that easy to do without sacrificing flavor.

There are many great protein pasta options out there these days. I am a huge fan of Banza. This brand is the closest-tasting alternative pasta to regular that I can find! It also happens to be gluten-free, making it a great choice for those on more limited diets.

While we do not need to eat gluten-free in our home, we choose to use Banza because of the higher protein and fiber content. It is a fabulous pasta choice to add more nutrition to your dinner and increase the number of plants you eat in a week (aim for 30+ if you can!)

We use lean ground beef to add hearty, savory flavor and protein. Our cheesy mixture includes reduced-fat mozzarella and cottage cheese, and this cheese mixture also packs a protein punch of its own.

Overall, this high protein pasta bake recipe is not only delicious, but it’s a great meal the whole family will love. You can also cut and store the baked pasta in individual portions for a weekly meal prep that can help you meat your daily protein goal. That’s a win-win!

overhead straight view of protein pasta bake

Ingredients

To make this healthy pasta bake, you need the following:

  • Lean Ground Beef (96/4) – Lean ground beef gives lots of protein to this meal without tons of added fat calories.
  • Turkey Pepperoni – Turkey pepperoni gives a savory bite while also reducing the fat calories from regular pepperoni.
  • Tomato Sauce – Use your favorite marinara sauce for this recipe.
  • Onion, Garlic, & Green Pepper – These veggies give our sauce a deeper, richer flavor.
  • Banza Chickpea Pasta – We use the Banza rotini because Costco sells it in bulk, but ziti or penne would also be a great choice. The Banza pasta gives extra protein and fiber. You can also choose to use regular pasta, but it will lower the fiber and protein content of the final macros.
  • Egg – The egg is the binder in our cheese mixture.
  • Cheese – Reduced Fat Cottage Cheese, mozzarella cheese, and grated parmesan cheese each add their own creamy, gooey, and salty flavors to this dish.
  • Seasonings – Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and even a little bit of red pepper flakes add great flavor to our pasta bake.
ingredients for high protein pasta bake on black background

Instructions

To make this high-protein pasta bake, follow the step by step below:

diced green pepper and two whole pepper segments on a wooden cutting board

1. Chop Veggies

Dice the onion, garlic, and green pepper into small pieces. Set aside.

skillet on stove with crumbled ground beef

2. Brown Meat

Heat a large skillet to medium heat and add your ground beef. Cook the meat, breaking it apart as it cooks, until it is no longer pink. Remove the cooked meat from the skillet and set aside. Drain any excess fat or liquid.

skillet on stove of diced peppers and onions

3. Cook Veggies

Add the veggies to the skillet you use to cook the meat. The leftover meat juices should be enough to cook the veggies without any sticking, but you can add a teaspoon of olive oil if needed. Cook the veggies until soft and fragrant.

stainless skillet of pasta sauce with meat and blue spatula

4. Make the Meat Sauce

Add the meat back into the skillet with the veggies, then add the pasta sauce to the skillet and stir. Cut your turkey pepperoni into quarters and stir it into the sauce. Add half of the Italian seasoning, the salt & pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes if desired. Stir thoroughly and let your skillet simmer on low heat while you prepare the pasta and cheese.

preheating oven to 375 degrees F

5. Preheat Oven & Boil Pasta

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Put a large pot of salted water on the stove on high heat and bring it to a boil. Add 12 ounces of dry pasta to the water and boil to al dente, about 5 minutes for the Banza rotini pasta variety. If using a different pasta shape, subtract one minute from the package directions to keep the pasta firm. Drain the pasta when the boil time is complete and set aside.

mixing cottage cheese, egg, mozzarella, seasonings in glass bowl

6. Make Cheese Mixture

While the pasta cooks, you can make your cheese mixture. Add the cottage cheese, half of the mozzarella, an egg, and the rest of the Italian seasoning to a bowl and stir.

assembling protein pasta layers in 9x13 with skillet of sauce to the right

7. Assemble the Pasta Bake

Take out a 9×13 baking dish and spray with a little bit of cooking spray. Pour 1/3 of your meat sauce in the bottom of the dish and spread it around evenly. Add half of the cooked pasta and spread it out, followed by half of the cheese mixture, and another 1/3 of the sauce. Repeat with the rest of the Banza, the rest of the cheese mixture, and the last of the sauce. Your layers will look sparse at first, but it will fill out as you go. Top the pasta bake with the remaining cup of mozzarella cheese and sprinkle your grated parmesan on top.

putting pan of high protein pasta bake into oven

8. Bake

Place your cheesy pasta bake in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the top of your cheese is completely melted and starting to lightly brown. Remove from the oven when finished and serve.

Tips & Variations

This delicious Italian pasta bake recipe can be topped with some fresh basil or chopped fresh or dried parsley. Feel free to swap out the ground beef for other lean meats, like ground turkey, bison or reduced-fat ground pork.

This easy pasta bake could also handle more veggies if desired–more bell peppers, fresh mushrooms, or zucchini would be delicious!

serving of high protein pasta bake on plate with fork pulling a bite

Serving Suggestions

Serve this high-protein pasta bake with a hearty winter kale salad.

Want another high-protein Italian dish makeover? Try my high-protein pizza recipe!

If you’re in the mood for a more traditional pasta dish, try our Bison Meatballs recipe. Bison meatballs are a favorite in my home and they go very well with red sauce and your favorite noodles.

For more healthy comfort food recipes, try my Healthy Tater Tot Casserole, Healthy Biscuits & Gravy, and Birria Enchiladas.

Nutritional Information

The full recipe makes 8 generous servings. For each serving, the nutritional information is as follows:

  • Calories: 413
  • Protein: 39 grams
  • Fat: 14 grams (6 grams saturated)
  • Carbs: 37 grams
  • Fiber: 7 grams

Recipe Notes

Store leftover portions in an airtight container. They will last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

close up of baked protein pasta

FAQ

Which pasta is highest in protein?

Pastas made from beans & other legumes have higher protein than wheat pasta. While whole wheat can also be nutritious, these higher-protein pasta options are great ways to get even more nutrients packed into your dinner!

How can I add more protein to my pasta?

I always like to serve my pasta dishes with a lean meat source, such as bison, a 96/4 ground beef, or ground turkey. Lean meat is nutrient-dense, lower in calories than higher-fat cuts, and has lots of protein per serving.

Is high-protein pasta worth it?

Yes, high-protein pasta is worth it, especially if you have a high protein goal to hit in your day and find it a challenge to hit that target. Adding extra protein through foods that aren’t typically considered a protein source is a great hack.

It is more expensive than regular pasta, but protein is the most expensive macro-nutrient. Especially when compared to regular refined white pasta, the nutrition you get from protein pasta is much higher. While many healthy foods are cheap (like rice, bananas, etc), that doesn’t usually apply to protein sources.

Did You Make This Recipe?

Please leave a comment and review! It means the world!

wooden spoon pulling out slice of high protein pasta bake from pan
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

High Protein Pasta Bake

This hearty & cheesy pasta dish packs nearly 40 grams of protein per serving.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time35 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: healthy comfort food, healthy family meals, healthy pasta bake, high protein, high protein dinners, pasta
Servings: 8
Calories: 413kcal
Author: Holly Lee
Cost: $15

Ingredients

  • 1 small Onion
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Green Pepper
  • 1 lb 96/4 Ground Beef
  • 24 oz Tomato Sauce
  • 60 grams Turkey Pepperoni about 34 pepperonis
  • 2 tbsp Italian Seasoning divided into 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes *Optional-omit if you don't like any spice
  • 12 ounces Banza Rotini Pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups 2% Cottage Cheese
  • 2 cups Part Skim Shredded Mozzarella divided into 1 cup + 1 cup
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan

Instructions

  • Finely dice the onion, garlic, and green pepper. Set aside.
  • Heat a large skillet to medium heat and add your ground beef. Cook the meat, breaking it apart as it cooks, until it is no longer pink. Remove the cooked meat from the skillet and set aside. Drain any excess fat or liquid.
  • Add the veggies to the skillet you cooked the meat in and cook until soft. The leftover meat juices should be enough to cook the veggies without any sticking.
  • Into the skillet of veggies, add back the meat followed by the pasta sauce. Cut your turkey pepperoni into quarters and stir it into the sauce. Add half of the Italian seasoning, the salt & pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes if desired. Stir thoroughly and let your skillet simmer on low heat while you prepare the pasta and cheese mixture.
  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Put a large pot of salted water on the stove on high heat and bring it to a boil.
  • Add 12 ounces of dry pasta to the water and boil to al dente, about 5 minutes for the Banza rotini pasta variety. If using a different pasta shape, subtract one minute from the package directions to keep the pasta firm. Drain the pasta when the boil time is complete and set aside.
  • While the pasta cooks, you can make your cheese mixture. Add the cottage cheese, half of the mozzarella, an egg, and the rest of the Italian seasoning to a bowl and stir.
  • Take out a 9×13 baking dish and spray with a little bit of cooking spray. Pour 1/3 of your meat sauce in the bottom of the dish and spread it around evenly. Add half of the cooked pasta and spread it out, followed by half of the cheese mixture, and another 1/3 of the sauce. Repeat with the rest of the Banza, the rest of the cheese mixture, and the last of the sauce.
  • Top the pasta bake with the remaining cup of mozzarella cheese and sprinkle your grated parmesan on top.
  • Place your pasta bake in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the top of your cheese is completely melted and starting to lightly brown. Then remove from the oven.

Video

Notes

Your layers will look sparse at first, but they will fill out as you go.

Nutrition

Calories: 413kcal

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