Almost Cheeseless Pasta Casserole Recipe

Trying to keep this pasta casserole recipe on the lighter side, I tossed a rustic farro pasta in yogurt that had been beaten with a bit of egg along with garlic, toasted almonds, chard, butternut squash, and olives. Baked until golden.

Almost Cheeseless Pasta Casserole

More often than not pasta casseroles are deliciously cheesy affairs. The formula goes something like this - pasta, a bit of sauce, a pound of cheese. The cheese is the decadent glue that works to hold the rest of the casserole together. It's what helps to keep things moist. It's what calls me back for that second piece. There are few things I love more than a golden fork-full of oven-browned mozzarella straight off a hot slice of lasagna. But there is only so much I can take, and truth be told, I rarely cook or eat this way any more. It's too heavy, too much. I end up needing a nap...immediately. So, while I still bake the occasional pasta casserole, I'll typically enjoy it as a side dish, and I try to lighten things up as far as the ingredients go. In this case, to keep things moist and creamy I tossed a rustic farro pasta in yogurt that had been beaten with a bit of egg. In went plenty of garlic, toasted almonds, chard, butternut squash, and olives. Then I finished things off with a sprinkling of feta before baking until golden.

Almost Cheese-less Pasta Casserole Recipe

I'm sure you can imagine re-interpreting this recipe based on the seasons. I opted for butternut squash in part because I had some leftover from the Adzuki Butternut Soup the other day. I could imagine zucchini with roasted tomatoes sprinkled on top in late summer, or an asparagus and dill version this spring. I highly recommend the toasted nuts because the add a nice amount of crunch. And whatever the season, zest the bottom of your baking dish. It will transform your casserole.

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Almost Cheeseless Pasta Casserole Recipe

I used a 100% farro pizzichi pasta here, but whole wheat penne is much more readily available - shoot for something made from whole grain flour, and roughly that size.

zest of one large lemon
8 ounces dried whole wheat pasta (penne or something comparable in size)
1 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled and sliced into quarter sized pieces
3 handfuls kale, chard, and/or spinach, loosely chopped
2 cups plain Greek yogurt (I use 2% here)
2 egg yolks
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and torn into pieces
scant 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Preheat oven to 400F degrees, with a rack in the middle. Butter or oil an 8x12-inch baking dish, or two smaller gratin dishes. Sprinkle with lemon zest and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it generously, and cook the pasta until al dente. Just 10 seconds before you are done cooking the pasta, stir in the butternut squash and kale - for the quickest possible swim. Quickly (but carefully) drain. Now run cold water over the pasta, squash, and kale (just enough to stop it from cooking). Shake off any extra water and set aside.

While you are waiting for the pasta water to boil, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, garlic, and salt in a large mixing bowl - set aside until the pasta is boiled. Then. when ready, add the pasta-squash-kale mixture to the yogurt mixture and stir in half of the almonds. Scoop everything into the prepared baking dish(es), sprinkle with olives and feta, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve sprinkled with a bit of the chopped fresh mint and remaining almonds.

Serves 6 -8 as a side.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Comments

I love the addition of yogurt to it. I make yougurt-based sauces, but never baked it as a cassarole. Sounds great, although the long melting cheese strings will be missed....

I have to bring a dish to a dinner party this weekend and this looks like the perfect one to bring...thanks for the idea...I'll let you know how it turns out...

This sounds like a great healthy alternative, but still tasty! What would you serve this with??

Annalisa

What a wonderful idea, Heidi! I love the creative touch with the zesting of the dish. I will definitely give it a try. Thank you, MC

Fantastic! I've been looking for a dish like this -- something my 10-month-old and my husband and I can enjoy together. (The little one loves feta and kalamata!) Thanks for yet another delicious idea!

Heidi, I am enamored with 101 cookbooks, supernatural cooking, pretty much everything you do! :) This pasta bake looks amazing, and I would love to make it for my parents, who just won't let go of cheesy, heavy pasta casseroles, but I'm allergic to Greek yogurt. Is there a substitute I could use and maintain the flavors? Thanks!

Alexis

can't wait to try this. i made the adzuki butternut squash soup this week and now I can use up my squash. by the way the soup is wonderful. I brought some into work today to share and have received rave reviews! Thanks

ann

Yum! I love lightening up dishes like these. It's a nice surprise and makes you feel good. Lovely recipe!

Heidi, it looks delicious as ever, but what do you mean by "zest the bottom of your casserole dish"? Sprinkle orange or lemon zest? Tegan

Tegan

so delicious! i'm sure you could use tofu or fake cheese instead...

Anonymous

I am so over cheesy casseroles after 26 years of raising children (with 8 years to go). THIS, however looks like a winner for all of us. We are not vegetarians but I have been commited to making three veg meals a week since 1990. Thanks for all your wonderful recipes and ideas.

Betsy

Hi, I am pure veg, it means NO EGG/MEAT/CHICKEN, is it possible to make this pasta without Egg? and what is the substitute i can use for egg? thanks... DD

Deepak Dogra

Oooh I can do feta and I can do yogurt! It's just those pesky other dairy products that give me trouble.I've never heard of zesting a baking pan before, I'll have to try it!

This looks great! Can't wait to try it... definitely earmarking it to make for dinner soon.

Sarah L

Good dish. You can try substituting the Swiss Chard with Dandelions, if they're available (they are a bit more delicate and have a bitter versus sweet component, unlike the Swiss Chard). I've also used fresh bread crumbs, cauliflower, and bits of plum tomato in baked pasta dishes. Best, Vince from Scordo.com

Oooh, this looks wonderful. My and my lactose averse belly like the idea of using less cheese and the olives/kale combo is really intriguing. I made your chipotle giant white bean bake last week and it was a huge hit - thanks for all the delicious baked things recipes lately!

Isn't it fearfully difficult to avoid the yoghurt separating and looking ucky (albeit tasting nice, I dare say)? I make a wonderful pasta bake with onions and a tin of tomatoes into which I whisk a scant tbs flour - cook onions first, then add tomato/flour mix and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. You can add sweetcorn, beans, whatever you fancy to this before pouring over cooked pasta, topping with grated cheese if liked, and putting in the oven for half an hour or so. HS: I didn't have a problem with separation - the eggs help in that regard. Your version sounds tasty!

Mrs Redboots

Why do you use just the egg yolks instead of the entire egg? I'm imagining a very science-y explanation, I just can't come up with it! I had them leftover from one of Wayne's meringue experiments ;)

Yes it does look awesome, but has anyone tried making this??? I would like to read feadback and reviews about this dish.

Real Input please~

Healthy comfort food...how alluring. Especially after my Valentine's Day feeding frenzy. These flavors are so complimentary and I love the feta, spinach and kalamata combination. Thanks for the great idea!

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