Pastitsio, a creamy pasta dish with Greek origins, beckons everyone to the table on cold nights.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Winter's chill prompted a craving for comforting casseroles at my house, but not the 1970s variety that involves a can of gluttonous cream of something soup.It might take a little more time than dumping in a can of soup, but the creamy sauces that bind these casseroles are from scratch butter- and flour-based bechamel, or white sauces.Pastitsio is a layered Greek and Mediterranean pasta casserole, that usually involves a base of tubular pasta bound with egg and cheese, a middle layer of ground meat, another layer of pasta and a top layer of bechamel-type sauce.The quick and easy pastitsio version below forgoes the layers, but includes most of the flavors and textures of the traditional version. The creamy sauce in this recipe is a bit of a cheat, with cream cheese in the recipe. The recipe calls for both low fat and fat free cream cheese, but I never trust the fat free and used all low fat.
Two American casserole classics, Chicken, Broccoli and Noodle and Tuna Noodle are updated in healthy fashion with whole-wheat pasta, lighter sauces and less cheese.Black Bean and Chicken Cilaquiles, a traditional Mexican breakfast dish, usually calls for sauteed day-old tortillas, fresh tomato sauce, cream and butter. This version is baked and requires only eight ingredients. It's delicious any time of the day.Martha Stewart's version of Baked Eggplant Parmesan also calls for a healthier bechamel with the cheeses all on top, instead of in layers, and a creamy pink sauce underneath.Make any of these casseroles to combat the cold snap this week.Reach Julie Robinson at email@example.com or 304-348-1230.Quick Pastitsio
8 ounces uncooked whole-wheat penne1 pound ground sirloin1 tablespoon olive oil11/2 cups chopped onion5 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt1 tablespoon all-purpose flour2 cups fat-free milk1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese1 (3-ounce) package fat-free cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsleyHEAT broiler.COOK pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.HEAT a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove beef from pan; drain. Wipe pan clean with paper towels.ADD oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add beef; sprinkle with salt. Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.STIR in milk, tomatoes, cream cheeses and nutmeg, stirring until smooth; bring to a simmer. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in pasta.SPOON pasta mixture into a 13- by 9-inch broiler-safe baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over top. Broil 4 minutes or until golden. Sprinkle with parsley.Source: cookinglight.comChicken and Broccoli Noodle Casserole
Yield: 6 servings6 ounces whole-wheat noodles2 teaspoon olive oil4 cloves garlic, sliced thin12 ounces fresh broccoli florets, chopped1 tablespoon butter1 medium shallot, minced3 tablespoon all purpose flour13/4 cups fat-free chicken broth1 cup 1 percent milk12 ounces cooked shredded chicken breast
4 ounces shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese2 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbsCOOK pasta in salted water until al dente, or slightly undercooked by 2 minutes. Set aside.HEAT oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and cook on medium heat until golden, about 1 minute. Add broccoli and a little salt, sauté and cover the broccoli for about 3 minutes on medium heat until the broccoli begins to soften. Set aside.HEAT oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray a 9- x 12-inch casserole dish with cooking spray.HEAT butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallot and cook until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add the flour and a pinch of salt and stir well, cooking an additional 2-3 minutes on medium-low heat.WHISK in the chicken broth until well combined over medium heat; whisk well for 30 seconds, then add the milk and bring to a boil. Simmer on medium heat, mixing occasionally until it thickens, about 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat and add cheddar and 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese; mix well until the cheese melts.ADD shredded chicken, noodles and broccoli to the sauce and mix well until evenly coated.POUR into a casserole dish and top with Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Spray a little more cooking spray on top and bake for about 20 - 25 minutes. Place the casserole under the broiler a few minutes to get the crumbs crisp and golden.Nutrition information per serving: Calories 313, Fat 9.9 g, Protein 27.2 g, Carb 31.2 g, Fiber 4.4 g, Sugar 2.6 g, Sodium 256.7 mg.Source: Skinnytaste.comTuna Noodle Casserole
Makes 6 servings6 ounces whole grain noodles1 tablespoon butter1 medium onion, minced fine3 tablespoons flour 1 3/4 cups fat free chicken broth1 cup 1 percent milk1 ounces sherry, optional10 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed2 (5 ounces) cans tuna in water, drained4 ounces 50 percent reduced fat sharp cheddarButter flavored cooking spray2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese2 tablespoons whole-wheat seasoned breadcrumbsCOOK noodles in salted water until al dente, or slightly undercooked by 2 minutes. Set aside.MELT the butter in a large deep skillet. Add onions and cook on medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and a pinch of salt and stir well, cooking an additional 2-3 minutes on medium-low heat.HEAT oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray 9- by 12-inch casserole with butter flavored cooking spray.SLOWLY WHISK in the chicken broth until well combined, increasing heat to medium and whisking well for 30 seconds, then add the milk and bring to a boil. When boiling, add sherry, mushrooms and petite peas, adjust salt and pepper to taste and simmer on medium, mixing occasionally until it thickens, about 6-7 minutes. Add drained tuna, stirring another minuteREMOVE from heat and add 1 cup reduced fat sharp cheddar and mix well until it melts. Add the noodles to the sauce and mix well until evenly coated. Pour into casserole and top with Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Spray a little more cooking spray and top and bake for about 20 - 25 minutes. Place under the broiler a few minutes to get the crumbs crisp.Nutrition information per serving: Calories 318, Fat: 7 g, Protein: 27.3 g, Carb: 34.3 g, Fiber: 3.6 g Source: skinnytaste.comRoasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squashCooking spray6 sweet hickory-smoked bacon slices1 cup thinly sliced shallots8 ounces uncooked mini penne1/4 cup all-purpose flour2 cups 2 percent reduced-fat milk3/4 cup shredded sharp provolone cheese1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheeseHEAT oven to 425 degrees.COMBINE 1/4 teaspoon salt, rosemary, and pepper. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt mixture. Bake at 425 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Remove from oven. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.COOK the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 1/2 teaspoons drippings in pan; crumble bacon. Increase heat to medium-high. Add shallots to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until tender. ADD squash mixture to bacon, and shallots; set aside.COOK pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.COMBINE flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly.REMOVE from heat. Add provolone, stirring until cheese melts. Add pasta to cheese mixture, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11- x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; top with squash mixture.SPRINKLE evenly with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.Source: cookinglight.comBlack Bean and Chicken Cilaquiles
Cooking spray1 cup thinly sliced onion5 garlic cloves, minced2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth1 (7 3/4-ounce) can salsa de chile fresco tomato sauce15 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch strips1 cup shredded queso blanco, or Monterey Jack cheeseHEAT oven to 450 degrees.HEAT a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add chicken; cook 30 seconds.TRANSFER mixture to a medium bowl; stir in beans. Add broth and salsa to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.PLACE half of tortilla strips in bottom of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer half of chicken mixture over tortillas; top with remaining tortillas and chicken mixture. Pour broth mixture evenly over chicken mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until tortillas are lightly browned and cheese is melted.Source: cookinglight.comLighter Eggplant Parmesan
1 large eggplant, about 2 pounds, sliced 1/2 inch thick crosswise1 tablespoon olive oilCoarse salt and ground pepper1 cup fat-free or skim milk3 tablespoons all-purpose flour2 garlic cloves, minced1 cup homemade or best-quality store-bought marinara sauce1/2 cup grated part-skim mozzarella1/3 cup grated ParmesanHEAT oven to 450 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Arrange eggplant on two rimmed baking sheets. Brush eggplant on both sides with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until golden brown and very tender, 20 to 25 minutes, turning slices and rotating sheets halfway through.WHISK together 1/4 cup milk, flour, and garlic and an unheated medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in remaining 3/4 cup milk and 1/2 cup marinara sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook until pink sauce has thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.SPREAD 1/4 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a shallow greased 2-quart baking dish. Alternate layers of baked eggplant with pink sauce. Dollop with remaining 1/4 cup marinara sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake on upper rack until browned and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes.Source: marthastewart.com