Tuesday, January 10, 2012

One Great . . . dinner casserole

Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? Paula Deen's son Bobby has started his own form of imitation, with a new Cooking Channel show, "Not My Mama's Meals" - lighter, more healthful versions of his mother's down-home stuff.

Food Network Magazine kicked off the show with a "He Made She Made" feature this month contrasting the Deens' versions of that ol' crowd-pleaser, Baked Spaghetti. Paula's had more cheese and a pound and a half of ground beef. Bobby's used whole-wheat angel hair pasta, half as much cheese and 8 ounces of chicken sausage. I also discovered it was simple and fast to put together when I needed a quick family dinner in the week after the holidays.

I made a few changes: Instead of removing the sausage from the casings, I just sliced it into half-moons. I used shiitake mushrooms because I had some on hand. I skipped the basil because it's out of season. And instead of baking the whole thing in a big 13-by-9-inch baking dish, I divided it into two batches. I baked one in an 9-inch square baking dish and put the other in a foil-lined 9-inch baking pan and froze it for another night. The smaller serving still had 4 graciously large servings - more if one of your diners isn't a teenager.

Light Baked Spaghetti

From Food Network Magazine, January/February issue.

Kosher salt
6 ounces whole-wheat angel hair pasta (such as Barilla Plus)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 pound sweet Italian chicken sausage, casings removed (or left whole and cut into half-moon slices)
2 green bell peppers, cored and diced
1/2 pound button or cremini mushrooms, sliced (or shiitake caps, sliced)
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (or 2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes)
1 cup torn fresh basil (optional)
Cooking spray
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded cheddar

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions; drain.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat while pasta is boiling. Cook onion, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up or stirring slices until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bell pepper, mushrooms, seasoned salt and Italian seasoning and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, 3/4 cup water and basil (if using) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the sauce reduces a little, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to combine. Spoon half the pasta mixture into the prepared casserole dish. (If you have to, use tongs to lift the pasta and then spoon about half the sauce from the skillet on top.) Sprinkle with half the cheese. Spoon the remaining pasta mixture and sauce on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Spray a sheet of foil with cooking spray and place it loosely over the top (try not to let the foil touch the cheese.)

Bake until the cheese is melted and everything is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.


Nibletodell said...

Sounds great, but sorry Bobby, nothing about this is light...