Editor’s note: As Henry Ford Health System transitions to a new contributor for this column, enjoy this Healthy Table pasta bake recipe from the Free Press archives.
As we settle into the cozy fall season, cooking habits and food preferences
begin to change. Soups, stews, chili and casseroles turn up more often on the dinner table.
Today’s casserole features whole-wheat penne baked in a rustic tomato sauce with three kinds of cheese.
Most casseroles get their creaminess from cheese, which makes modifying them a little tricky. Cheese, of course, contains artery-clogging saturated fat.
Interestingly, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, mixed dishes are the main source of saturated fats in the diet. Mixed dishes include burgers, sandwiches, tacos, pizza, meat, poultry, seafood dishes, and rice and pasta dishes. (Think casseroles.)
For today’s pasta bake, we used part-skim ricotta and part-skim mozzarella cheese. Ricotta, which is similar to a fine-textured cottage cheese, comes in whole-milk, part-skim, low-fat (light), and fat-free forms. Though whole-milk ricotta is the creamiest, it contains the most saturated fat. Low-fat and fat-free versions have little or no saturated fat, but lack flavor and have a somewhat gritty texture. Part-skim ricotta worked perfectly in our casserole, providing wonderful creaminess, but not too much saturated fat.
If possible, buy part-skim mozzarella in a chunk and grate it yourself. Packaged, grated cheese usually has potato starch added to keep the shreds from sticking together. The starch, however, keeps the cheese from melting properly.
Finally, we saved the best for last and topped this casserole with Parmesan cheese. It’s a significant source of saturated fat, but its flavor is intense and pungent. A little goes a long way.
For busy home cooks, this penne bake can be assembled a day or two in advance and cooked later. To avoid a cracked glass pan, allow the assembled casserole to be at room temperature for about an hour before placing in the oven.
Penne Pasta Bake
Serves: 9 (about 1 ¼ cup servings) / Prep time: 20 minutes / Total time: 1 hour
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¾ teaspoon ground fennel
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound ground turkey breast
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces whole-wheat penne
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
5 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Coat a 4-quart oval baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
In a large skillet, heat oil and saute onion until softened; about 3 minutes. Add oregano, garlic powder, fennel and red pepper flakes and continue to saute 1 minute. Add turkey, breaking into crumbles and cooking until no longer pink.
Crush by hand or rough chopped tomatoes and add to skillet along with can juices. Add tomato paste; stir and simmer 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and add sugar, salt and black pepper.
Prepare pasta according to package directions, omitting the salt. In a bowl,
combine ricotta and mozzarella cheese. To assemble, spread 1 cup of tomato mixture over bottom of baking dish and top with ½ of the cooked and drained pasta. Distribute all of the ricotta cheese mixture over pasta. Top with 1 cup tomato mixture. Add remaining pasta, then remaining tomato mixture. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top. Bake uncovered in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until heated through and cheese is melted.
From Darlene Zimmerman, MS, RD for Heart Smart and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
283 calories (25% from fat), 8 grams fat (4 grams sat. fat, 0 grams trans fat), 31 grams carbohydrates, 25 grams protein, 458 mg sodium, 53 mg cholesterol, 295 mg calcium, 5 grams fiber. Food exchanges: 1 ½ starch, 1 vegetable, 3 lean meat.
Contact Detroit Free Press food writer Sue Selasky and send food and restaurant news to: 313-222-6872 or [email protected]. Follow @SusanMariecooks on Twitter.
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