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 jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.
8 ounces uncooked whole-wheat penne
1 pound ground sirloin
1 tablespoon olive oil
11/2 cups chopped onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups fat-free milk
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1 (3-ounce) package fat-free cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
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 servings
6 ounces whole-wheat noodles
2 teaspoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
12 ounces fresh broccoli florets, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium shallot, minced
3 tablespoon all purpose flour
13/4 cups fat-free chicken broth
1 cup 1 percent milk
12 ounces cooked shredded chicken breast
4 ounces shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs
COOK 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 servings
6 ounces whole grain noodles
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, minced fine
3 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups fat free chicken broth
1 cup 1 percent milk
1 ounces sherry, optional
10 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed