Italian Turkey Sausage & Pepper Pasta

I’ve been making this for years…since before we had kids. In fact, when we were first married, we lived near a Johnny Carino’s Italian restaurant and went there often. My husband always ordered a “Skilletini” which is a tomato based pasta dish served with peppers, onions, & sausage, much like this one. Maybe that’s why we love this so much. It reminds us of our newly-wed date nights. It was a favorite then and it’s a favorite now in our own home. ~Erin



8 oz. uncooked whole wheat penne pasta

1 ¼ lb. turkey Italian sausage (5 links)

1 bell pepper of each color: green, red, yellow, and orange; sliced into strips

1 lg. onion, sliced

2-4 cloves garlic, minced (I used 1 T. squeeze garlic)

1 (14.5 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained

1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce

1 T. Italian seasoning

1 tsp. salt

3 T. of pasta water (reserved before draining cooked pasta)

1 T. olive oil

Parmesan cheese for serving, optional (not included in WW points calculations)

Crushed red pepper flakes for serving, optional


Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions; reserve 3 T. of pasta water, drain, & set aside.

Brown sausages in a large skillet over medium-high heat; remove from pan & set aside. You can either leave them whole to cook them, then slice each into four pieces; or you can slice and then cook them. I prefer to slice first and then cook the pieces because they cook faster. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Cook peppers and onions in olive oil over medium-high heat until they are crisp-tender (about 8 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about a minute).

Add the Italian seasoning, salt, tomatoes, tomato sauce, pasta water, and sliced sausage pieces. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add penne pasta and stir to heat through.

Serve with parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.

Weight Watchers Info.: This recipe makes 10 servings. Each 8 oz. serving (about 1 ½ c.) is 5 SmartPoints.


Pizza Dip

Any time I make this dish, I get numerous requests for the recipe.  It is a true crowd pleaser. What could be better? Pizza, but in a dip! Make this and please the folks at your next get together.  ~Kathy



8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

¼ tsp. onion powder

12 – 15 pepperonis, chopped

½ c. pizza sauce

1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

2 T. sliced black olives

1 green onion, sliced


Combine first four ingredients in a small bowl. Spread into a small baking dish. Top with chopped pepperonis, pizza sauce, cheese and black olives.

Bake at 350˚ for 15-20 minutes, until heated through and bubbly around the edges. Top with green onions.

Serve with garlic bagel crisps or garlic parmesan pretzel crisps.



Italian Stuffed Shells

This recipe is a hit at our house.  My husband says it’s better than lasagna (one of our favorites)! These are great for dinner at home or would be a crowd pleaser at a pot luck.  Truly, Italian comfort food.  With simple ingredients, you can crank out an impressive dinner for your family. Serve alongside a green salad, and ta-da, dinner is complete!  The mix of cheese….  Come to Mama!   ~Kathy



12 oz. Jumbo pasta shells (make plenty – some will break; you need about 34 for this recipe)

½ lb. 96% lean ground beef

1/3 c. chopped onion

1 c. shredded parmesan cheese (not the powdered type)

1 c. (1% fat) cottage cheese

1 (7.5 oz.) package cream cheese with chive and onion

2 c. low moisture part-skim mozzarella, shredded (reserve ¾ c.)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp. garlic powder)

¼ tsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp pepper

2 tsp dried parsley

1 (24 oz.) jar reduced fat spaghetti sauce

3 T. water

Optional garnishes:  fresh chopped basil or parsley


In large pot, bring salted water to a boil.   Cook pasta just until al dente (about 10 minutes).  Drain, rinse in cold water and turn open side down on paper towels to dry.

While the noodles are cooking, cook ground beef with onion.  Season with salt and pepper.   Drain grease and set aside.

Combine parmesan cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese and 1¼ c. mozzarella.   Stir in eggs, garlic, Italian seasoning, pepper and parsley.  Stir in ground beef mixture.  Combine well.

In a small bowl, mix together water and ¼ c. spaghetti sauce.   Spread into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan.

Fill each shell with a heaping tablespoon of cheese mixture.  Set into pan open side up.  Continue filling shells until cheese mixture is gone.   Top with remaining sauce.

Cover loosely with foil and bake in a preheated 375˚ oven for 40 minutes.   Turn oven off, remove foil.  Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.  Leave in oven for an additional 5 minutes.   Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Top with fresh chopped parsley or basil if desired.


Weight Watchers Info.:  This makes approximately 34 stuffed shells.  A serving of 2 shells is 7 Freestyle points.  A serving of 3 shells is 11 Freestyle points.

Pizza Pasta


When my husband I first met, we spent every Tuesday night at the local pizza place with a group of friends.  I got to know him over slices of pizza and pints of beer.  I realized he’s funny, sweet, and maybe worth seeing as more than just a friend.  Pizza is good for getting to know people.

I love pizza in all forms.  This one-skillet Pizza Pasta is all the flavors of pizza in a scoopable form.  What’s not to love?  ͂ Erin


½ a large red onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

2 c. jarred pizza sauce

8 oz. dry whole wheat rotini pasta

4 oz. mild turkey breakfast sausage

2 oz. pepperoni*, chopped in small pieces

1 tsp. garlic salt

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

2 c. water

Shredded parmesan cheese & crushed red pepper flakes, for serving


Cook and stir breakfast sausage, onion, and bell pepper in a large skillet until sausage is browned.  Drain sausage mixture on a paper towel-lined plate. Carefully wipe out any excess grease from the skillet. Add pizza sauce, water, rotini pasta, pepperoni, sausage mixture, garlic salt, and Italian seasoning to the skillet. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil until pasta is tender and sauce is reduced (about 12 minutes). Serve sprinkled with parmesan and red pepper flakes.

Weight Watchers info.:  This makes 6 servings.  A serving is 1 cup (about 7 ounces by weight).  *If you use regular pepperoni, each serving is 9 SmartPoints. If you use turkey pepperoni, each serving is 7 SmartPoints. (If serving with parmesan cheese, be sure to add those points.)

Ham & Pepperoni Stromboli

This is something I make a lot on weeknights. It literally takes 5 minutes of prep, and my family devours it!  I also like to throw this together to take to get-togethers. I took it to Bunco with my teacher friends quite a bit, and everyone asked for the recipe. Make this next time you need a quick dinner or appetizer.  It’s family-friendly and always a crowd-pleaser!  ͂ Erin



Refrigerated pizza crust (I use Pillsbury Thin Crust)

12 slices thin deli ham

25 slices turkey pepperoni

1 cup shredded mozzarella (I use Kraft 2%)

1 T. Italian Seasoning (plus more for the outside of the crust)

½ tsp. garlic powder, optional

1 egg white

Non-stick cooking spray

Pizza sauce or Ranch dressing, for dipping


Preheat oven to 425°F.  Spray a sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Unroll the pizza dough on the sheet pan.  Arrange the ham in a single layer across the crust, then spread the pepperoni over the ham.  Top with shredded mozzarella and sprinkle the Italian seasoning across the cheese.  Roll the stromboli and place, seam side down, in the center of the pan, tucking the ends of the roll under.  Brush the outside of the dough with egg whites and sprinkle lightly with Italian seasoning.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Slice into 6 pieces and serve with pizza sauce and/or Ranch dressing.

Weight Watchers info.:  6 servings at 7 SmartPoints per serving, not counting dipping sauces.

Chicken Parmesan Casserole


We live near a town known for its Italian food, Krebs —  also known as “Oklahoma’s Little Italy.”  It was settled by Italian immigrants years ago, who soon opened several restaurants, cafés, and shops.  In fact, two of my favorite foodie establishments are there.  Lovera’s Italian Market makes their own award winning cheeses, sauces, sausages, marinades, dressings, etc.  When I go into their shop, I want one of everything.  It’s a foodie’s dream.  My other favorite Little Italy stop is Rosanna’s Italian Food.  Their Chicken Parmesan is to die for.  Rosanna’s also makes cheesecakes from scratch.  Again, a foodie’s paradise…however this Weight Watcher has to enjoy these things in moderation.  When I’m craving Chicken Parmesan but don’t want to spend the calories or cash, I make this easy, healthy spin-off.  It’s baked instead of fried and has all the best parts of Chicken Parm, complete with that crunchy crust which makes it worthwhile.  Plus, it’s much faster and easier for busy cooks!  Serve it with spaghetti or all by itself.

͂ Erin


Ingredients for chicken layer:

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast – cut into small pieces

1 (29 oz.) can tomato sauce

1 packet McCormick Thick & Zesty Spaghetti Sauce Mix

1 T. garlic salt

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

¼ to ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (I use ½ tsp. – plus I add more on my plated serving.)

Non-stick cooking spray


Ingredients for topping:

2 c. low moisture, part skim shredded mozzarella

2 c. panko breadcrumbs

½ c. shredded parmesan

1 ½ T. extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp. garlic salt

Basil, for garnish (optional) – I buy the chopped, lightly dried kind in the produce section


Preheat oven to 375°F.  Spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Spread chicken pieces evenly on the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle the chicken with 1 T. garlic salt, 1 tsp. Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk McCormick seasoning packet into tomato sauce until well combined.  Pour the tomato sauce mixture over the chicken.

Sprinkle shredded mozzarella evenly over sauce; set pan aside.

In a small mixing bowl, combine panko, shredded parmesan, olive oil, and ½ tsp. garlic salt.  Spread this topping evenly on top of mozzarella layer.

I usually spray a quick spritz of non-stick cooking spray over the top, to ensure even browning, but that is optional.

Bake on the center oven rack for 45-60 minutes until very bubbly and browned on the top (most importantly, until chicken is 165°F in the center).  If it starts to get too brown before fully cooked, cover loosely with foil.

Sprinkle with chopped basil before serving, if desired.


Weight Watchers info:  This recipe makes 8 servings.

Old Smartpoints plan:  8 SmartPoints per serving

Freestyle plan:  6 SmartPoints  per serving

*Many have asked why spaghetti is not included in the SmartPoints calculation.  This is so you can customize it to your needs.  You can eat it with a big serving of spaghetti or a small serving, zoodles (zucchini noodles), spaghetti squash, or no spaghetti at all.

Summer Veggie Pasta

As summer vegetables come into season, this is a wonderful way to appreciate some of those fresh flavors.  Our family has been enjoying this recipe for many years.  Even the kids love it!  It makes a great side compliment to your favorite grilled chicken or fish, but we recommend it as a tasty main dish all on its own! ~ Tracy

1 medium zucchini, sliced into thin, bite sized pieces

4 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped

10 oz. grape tomatoes, halved or quartered to your liking

½ c. chopped onion

1 ½ T. extra virgin olive oil

1 t. dried basil*

½ t. dried oregano

salt / cracked pepper to taste

½ c. shredded Parmesan cheese

8 oz. uncooked spaghetti noodles

Cook spaghetti according to package instructions (remember to liberally salt the water).

While spaghetti is cooking, add olive oil to large sauté pan.  When oil is hot, sauté zucchini, garlic, and onion.   Continue to stir-fry the zucchini, garlic, and onions for three to four minutes – until onion begins to become translucent and zucchini softens.  Toss in tomatoes and seasonings.  Heat through.

Add cooked pasta and stir thoroughly into vegetable mixture.   Toss in shredded Parmesan.

*If using fresh basil you may want to reduce amount, since fresh basil is much stronger in flavor.

**Weight Watchers friends, this recipe is 7 SmartPoints for 1 ½ cups!  (Makes 5 servings)