As far as pasta casseroles go, this Southern Living recipe seemed pretty nutritionally harmless. It's made with lean ground beef and a reasonable amount of dairy. I tweaked it a bit to make it slightly more healthy. The ingredient list may look a bit daunting below, but most of these items you will already have in your pantry (or can very easily get them from the store).
GREEK BAKED ZITI
For the milk, I used 2%. You should be able to use skim as a substitute without issue. The original recipe calls for a very large amount of the milk/cheese mixture. I halved this portion in my version and didn't miss any of the milk, butter, and cheese that we did not use. I did not use the entire 8 oz. package of mozzarella indicated below. I used between 4-6 oz. for my dish.
- 12 oz ziti pasta, cooked and drained
- 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1-1/2 lb. lean ground beef
- 2 15-oz. cans of tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1-1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
- 1-1/2 tbsp. butter
- 1-1/2 tbsp. flour
- 1-1/2 c. milk (I used 2%)
- 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
- 8 oz. package shredded mozzarella
- 1/3 c. fine dry breadcrumbs
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Saute onion in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until tender (4-5 minutes). Add garlic and saute 30 seconds.
3. Add beef, stirring occasionally, and cook 5 minutes or until crumbled and browned.
4. Drain mixture and return to the skillet.
5. Stir in tomato sauce, lemon juice, oregano, sugar, cinnamon, and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
6. Cook and stir occasionally for 2 minutes and remove from heat.
7. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking continuously, for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk.
8. Increase heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, for 5-7 minutes or until thickened and bubbly.
9. Stir in Parmesan cheese, pepper, and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt.
10. Add cooked ziti pasta to cheese sauce mixture, stirring to coat.
11. Transfer pasta mixture to a lightly-greased 9x13 glass baking dish. Top with beef mixture.
12. Sprinkle mozarella cheese and breadcrumbs on top of beef mixture.
13. Bake a 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly. (Cheese will be melted.)
14. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Magazine note: this dish may be fixed ahead and frozen (unbaked) for a future meal. If frozen, let stand 30 minutes before baking, and add 15-20 minutes to the baking time in the oven.