Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cheesy Broccoli and Pasta Casserole

This weekend it rained/snowed a little bit so a warm comforting dish was much needed. Toothsome pasta that's crunchy on top, smooth and cheesy on the inside, all studded with broccoli...honestly what could be better? It's perfect to serve as a side dish but also delicious enough to have as the main course.

The first time I made this I had a hard time getting the ratio of noodles and broccoli to cheese sauce right but I think I nailed it this time. Bonus: the leftovers were amazing, so good in fact that I am toying with the idea of making this an entire day before we have it for dinner next time.

2 1/4 cup whole wheat rotini pasta
3/4 lb broccoli
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs

1/4 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 white onion, diced
2 1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1/8 tsp nutmeg

2 1/4 cups 2% Italian cheese blend
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 F
Trim the broccoli so there is very little stalk left, cut florets into medium/small pieces, about the same size as the pasta
Steam in the microwave and drain
Cook the pasta, drain, and return to the pasta pot

Sauté the minced garlic and finely chopped onion in a medium sauce pot with the olive oil and butter
Once the onion has softened add the skim milk, italian seasoning, and nutmeg

Slowly whisk the flour into the milk, making sure to break up any lumps before adding more flour
Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken (7-10 minutes)
Now start adding the cheese one small handful at a time, stir and make sure all the cheese has melted before adding the next handful (this keeps it from getting grainy)
Add 1/4 tsp salt

Once all the cheese has been melted into your sauce pour it over the pasta, add the broccoli and gently stir until everything is coated

Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray (I used a deep oval 10x4 ceramic dish and it was perfect)
Pour pasta mixture into your prepared dish, sprinkle top with panko (skip this for now if you are making it ahead of time as the panko will become irreversibly soggy)

Bake for 20-30 minutes uncovered until the sauce is bubbly

We like to have this with a light vegetable side like Baked Asparagus

Servings 4
Per serving (1/4 casserole) 530 calories
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