Saturday, June 6, 2009

This Vegetarian Pasta Casserole will Satisfy Hearty Eaters; Save Leftovers for Lunches or Busy Nights

You know about my love of pasta from a recent post. I enjoy pasta by eating it with lots of vegetables. I made this for dinner last night and when I took it out of the oven, Aaron gasped and said it looked good so I thought I should share it with you. It's a veggie pasta casserole with a homemade lighter cheese sauce. I based it off of a Cooking Light recipe from 2000. I wanted to boost the vegetables and flavor because of the reviews it got online. My version has a head of cauliflower and a bunch of fresh spinach. I served it with a mixed green salad.

The pasta casserole was hearty so meat eaters won't miss the meat! Each serving is about 1 1/2 cups with 375 calories and 22g protein. We ate this for dinner and I preportioned the remaining 4 servings for the fridge so we can grab and go later in the week. It's a great way to avoid takeout or frozen meals on those busy nights!

Cauliflower, Spinach, Cheese and Pasta Casserole (6 servings)

  • 8 cups water
  • 6 cups cauliflowerets (1 1/2 lbs) cut in small pieces
  • 8 ounces uncooked small shell pasta
  • 3 cups lowfat milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 head spinach, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 cups finely chopped onions
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and divided
  • 1 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cups grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (or smoked mozzerella)
  • 3 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon thyme (or 3 tsp chopped fresh thyme)
  • 1 tablespoon prepared Dijon style mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan; add cauliflower and 1/2 teaspoon salt to boiling water, and cook 4 minutes or until tender. Remove cauliflower with a slotted spoon, reserving cooking liquid; set cauliflower aside. Bring cooking liquid to a rolling boil. Add pasta, and cook 7 minutes or until al dente; drain and set aside.
  • In a preheated large sauce pan, drizzle a bit of olive oil. Add chopped onions and 1 clove minced garlic. Cook 2 minutes on medium heat. Add fresh spinach and season with salt and pepper. Cook until wilted. Remove spinach-onion mixture and set aside in a bowl. Use this saucepan to make the sauce.
  • Melt butter in saucepan. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine flour to melted butter and stir with whisk for 1 minute, then add milk to saucepan, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in thyme and remaining garlic; cook over medium heat until thick (about 8 minutes), stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, cheeses, nutmeg, mustard, and pepper. Combine cauliflower, spinach, pasta, and cheese sauce in a large bowl. Spoon the cauliflower mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Spinkle bread crumbs on casserole evenly over cauliflower mixture.
  • Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Add freshly chopped parsley when it is out of the oven.

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