Blog Archives

Lighter Three-Cheese Pasta Bake

Happy Friday everyone! Wow did this week go flying by, or is it just me? I’ve been so busy with back to school stuff that it just seems like it flew by! Can you believe it’s time for back to school already?! I managed to get all of the school supplies, sports physicals are done, we’re working on clothes, and more paperwork for the schools. It hardly leaves time for anything else it would seem.

However, if you are a planner like I am, you probably plan ahead your meals. Or at least your dinners. One thing I have been doing lately is planning budget friendly meals, mostly because of the expenses of back to school. With budget friendly meals, it always helps to have at least 1 meatless dish a week, and lets not forget to keep it healthy! Budget friendly doesn’t have to mean “bad for you”.

So, I’ve got a great meatless casserole for you today! Originally I found this casserole over on Krystin’s blog, Lil Luna. Her recipe is phenomenal! Don’t get me wrong! In fact I love it so much, I really wanted to make it a bit healthier so I can enjoy it more often. Plus I made a few other minor changes to make it more of a meal. By the way, if you don’t want this to be a meatless dish, you can always add some chopped cooked chicken, turkey or ham to it as well.

So here’s what I came up with to lighten it up, and twist it a smidge. First of all, you want to get your ziti pasta cooking. Cook that according to the package instructions until it’s al dente. While that’s boiling away, heat your broccoli cuts according to package directions. Now I bought frozen steamable broccoli cuts, so I just had to plop the package down in the microwave and nuke it according to what the package said. Drain  your pasta, put it back in the same pot, add your broccoli.

Now, take your Alfredo sauce and sour cream and mix that together real good.

Then dump that sauce into the pot with your ziti and broccoli. Toss that together until it’s all evenly coated.

Spread half of the noodle mixture into a lightly greased 13×9 dish.

Now combine together your ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, salt & pepper.

Spread that evenly over the pasta mixture in the baking dish. Spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top of the ricotta mixture.

Sprinkle the top with mozzarella cheese.

Bake it at 350 degrees F. until bubbly and the cheese has melted.

Just look at that cheese! Using light roasted garlic Alfredo sauce, light sour cream, ricotta cheese made with part skim, and reduced fat mozzarella cheese, you’re still left with a rich, creamy, delicious pasta casserole. By the way, no one in this house had a clue I used light or reduced fat anything in this recipe. Now I can enjoy this casserole more often with reduced guilt!

One last note, to make it a bit more healthier, and if you wish, you can replace regular ziti pasta with whole grain or whole wheat ziti. We are just not fans of whole wheat pasta, but that doesn’t mean  you aren’t! Enjoy!

 

Print Recipe
Lighter Three-Cheese Pasta Bake Yum
Recipe by Christine Titus
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Prepare ziti according to package directions until al dente; drain and return to pot.
  2. While ziti is cooking, heat broccoli cuts according to package directions. I used steamable, so just used my microwave.
  3. Once ziti is drained and returned to the pot, add the broccoli
  4. Stir together Alfredo sauce and sour cream; toss with ziti and broccoli until evenly coated. Spoon half of mixture into a lightly greased 13x9-inch baking dish.
  5. Stir together ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Spread evenly over pasta mixture in baking dish. Spoon remaining pasta mixture evenly over ricotta cheese layer; sprinkle evenly with mozzarella cheese.
  6. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly.
Recipe Notes

Feel free to add meat to this dish if you want! Just throw in some chopped cooked chicken, turkey or ham with your pasta and broccoli.

Substitute whole grain or whole wheat pasta if you like.

Adapted from lilluna.com

Share this Recipe

Cheesy Broccoli Chicken Casserole

Any recipe that has a name that starts with “Cheesy” will have my full and undivided attention! We love cheese around here. In my opinion, you can NEVER add too much cheese. The more cheese, the better it is. There’s just something about that ooey gooey goodness that is so incredibly comforting. Especially when you add pasta to it

This recipe makes a ton. I’m not gonna lie. 😁 I had enough to feed an army, I’m not kidding. That’s not always a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with leftovers. I meant I didn’t have to cook the next night and could take the night off. What’s bad about that? Also, since it makes so much, and it’s soooo good you’re going to want to share it, it’s perfect to take to a potluck. Not going to a potluck anytime soon? No big deal, you can turn this one casserole into two separate casseroles and cook one tonight, freeze one for later! I’m a huge fan of cooking ahead and stashing homemade meals in the freezer. They’re better for you than what the freezer section at the grocery store has to offer, they taste better too, and those nights you just don’t feel up to cooking, no problem! Dinner’s already made. Just have to pop it in the oven.  Anyway, lets get on with this recipe so you can go make it for your family.

It’s not a difficult casserole to make, as most casseroles aren’t. First we’ll start with the elbow mac. Cook that according to the package directions until they are al dente (cooked, but firm). While that’s cooking, throw some steamable frozen broccoli in the microwave and cook that according to the package directions, and set aside. While that’s all going on, you can be shredding your cheese.

I bought the sharp cheddar already shredded, so I got to skip that step. I know, I’ve heard it a million times, and people everywhere are saying this, that pre-shredded cheese in the package, do not melt as well as shredding it yourself. I disagree, because I’ve never had that problem. Like ever. Maybe I’m lucky, I doubt that strongly, but hey! Maybe that’s my super power. Pre-shredded cheese melts for me. The only kind of cheese I have found this to be true, is pre-shredded Parmesan. That really doesn’t melt as well as shredding it yourself. So, for the Gouda I had to do myself, and I recommend you do the Parmesan yourself too. Stop and snack a little, it’s ok. Who is going to know?! 😋

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to chop up your chicken.

Now, the best part, making the cheese sauce! Just a little butter and flour, whisked together, and cooked only for a couple short minutes to get that floury taste out. Then slowly add your milk, cream and seasonings, whisking all along the way until it’s nice and thick. Then you add your cheese, handful at a time, whisking until melted. NOW, we get to mix it all together!

Oh man… look at that cheese!!! 😍😍😍 Mix all that yummy together, and spoon it into your prepared 13×9.

Toss your topping ingredients together and sprinkle on top.

Pop that beautiful thing into the oven to bake, 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees. Check it at 20, you don’t want to over cook this or it can dry out. You just want it to be nice and hot and bubbly.

All that’s left is to serve, and enjoy!


Print Recipe
Cheesy Broccoli Chicken Casserole Yum
Recipe by Christine Titus
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degreees.
  2. Cook macaroni according to package directions. While macaroni is cooking, steam broccoli in microwave according to package directions, set aside.
  3. Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Whisk in flour and let cook 2 minutes while stirring. Slowly whisk in cream, milk, and seasonings. Cook over medium heat while stirring until thickened. Remove from heat and stir cheeses until melted.
  4. Toss cheese sauce, pasta, broccoli and chicken together. Taste, and adjust seasonings as desired. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over macaroni.
  5. Bake 20-25 minutes or just until hot and bubbling. Do not overcook, you don't want it to dry out.
Recipe Notes
  • If you are pre-cooking chicken for the purpose of casseroles, I season my chicken breasts with Garlic Pepper prior to cooking them. You can just salt & pepper them as well, or season to your liking. I do not recommend leaving them unseasoned. The more flavor the merrier!
  • No cooked chicken on hand? No problem! Grab a rotisserie chicken at your local grocery store deli, or check out the freezer section and grab a package of fully cooked grilled chicken breast strips.
  • Freeze Option: You can split this huge casserole into two casseroles. I like to use the throw-away foil baking pans for this purpose. Prep casserole as per directions above up to baking, pour into your aluminum baking pan, wrap with a layer of plastic wrap, then a layer of heavy duty aluminum foil, tightly. Label and freeze. To use frozen casserole, thaw in the fridge. When ready to bake, bake as per directions above.
Share this Recipe