I miss the cheesy, creamy pasta casseroles I used to make when the kids were young. Twenty-five years ago one of their favorites was chicken spaghetti, a gooey conglomeration of chicken and pasta held together with that miracle of 1950’s cooking, Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, and a mountain of shredded cheddar cheese. I recently made the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for our grandson, Thomas, and it took me back to those good old days. Delicious? Do you even have to ask?
But here’s why I won’t make it again: I figured out that one serving of chicken spaghetti will set you back 18 Weight Watcher Points. Yowza!
How can we get our pasta casserole fix without breaking the calorie/fat/guilt bank? It’s doable, believe me. Here’s an example that I’ve adapted from Cooking Light. It’s very similar to a recipe from my childhood, my mom’s Mock Ravioli. I followed Mom’s advice and dialed down the pasta to 12 oz. instead of Cooking Light’s one pound. I also added frozen, thawed spinach, which makes this more veggie-centric and ravioli-like. You can make this with or without the spinach. Either way, it represents lighter — and healthier — pasta comfort food, emphasis on comfort.
1 lb. pasta (penne or bowtie) I used 12 oz.
1 lb. hot turkey Italian sausage
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 (14-1/2 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup (4 oz.) grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and set aside.
Remove casings from sausage. Cook sausage, onion and garlic in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Add tomato paste, salt, pepper, tomatoes and spinach and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed.
Coat a 4-qt. baking dish with cooking spray. Add half of pasta to dish and cover with half tomato/spinach mixture. Top with half of mozzarella and half of Parmesan. Repeat layers. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly.
WW SmartPoints per serving: 11 (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)