Decadently Delicious and Low Calorie, Beefy Mac and Cheese Casserole

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Raise your hand if you love mac and cheese. If your hand is up, you’re going to really love this incredible mac and cheese. It truly has it all. Meat, pasta and vegetables baked in a rich Alfredo sauce. Maybe you’ve noticed, I’m a little obsessed lately with using a light Alfredo sauce in many of my dishes but I just love this rich, tasting sauce.  It’s so versatile. In this casserole, it allows you to add a lot less cheese that’s normally used to make mac and cheese. But, this dish couldn’t taste any richer, bordering obscene!!! Each serving has 277 calories, 9 grams of fat and 7 Weight Watchers POINTS PLUS.  My husband said it’s his very favorite recipe right now and he loves decadent tasting meals. Simply fabulous!

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Bake Time: 40 minutes


Ingredients for Casserole:

1½ cups (6 oz) uncooked whole wheat or whole grain penne pasta, I used Barilla Whole Grain

½ pound extra lean ground beef, see shopping tip

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 cup zucchini, chopped (about 1 medium)

1 cup onions, chopped

1 (10-oz) container Buitoni refrigerated light Alfredo sauce, see shopping tip

½ cup fat-free cottage cheese or ricotta cheese

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half

Fresh black pepper, to taste


Ingredient for Topping:

½ cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded


Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 2½ -quart casserole with nonstick cooking spray. Cook pasta to desired doneness as directed on package. Drain.

2. In large nonstick skillet, cook and break up ground beef over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.   Stir in the fresh garlic. Continue to cook for about 2 minutes or until beef is browned. Pour into a colander and drain all the fat. Add back to pan.

3. In the meantime, add the zucchini and onions to a microwave safe plate.  Cook in microwave for about 4 minutes, until soft.  Add to pan of browned beef. Stir in cooked pasta, Alfredo sauce, cottage cheese, tomato and a little pepper. Mix well. Spoon mixture into sprayed casserole.

4. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top of casserole.

5. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until thoroughly heated and cheese is melted.

Makes 6 servings (about 1⅓ cups each)


Healthy Benefit
s
Trader Joe’s extra lean ground beef is a terrific, healthy choice. It has 130 calories and 4 grams of fat for 4 ounces. If you can’t find beef this lean, be sure to drain the fat in a colander after browning it. This step will cut the fat way down. In fact, what ever type of ground meat you decide to use, still drain the fat into a colander.

Using whole grain pasta instead of regular is a great healthy choice. This type of pasta has much fiber.  A 2-ounce serving contains 6 grams!


Shopping Tips

Use Buitoni Light Alfredo Sauce, if possible. It comes in a 10 ounce container and can be found in most supermarkets in the refrigerator section, where fresh pasta and sauces are displayed. If you can’t find it, there are several brands of jarred light Alfredo sauce in the pasta aisle. They come in a larger, 15 ounce jar, so you’ll have some leftover.

There are several brands of whole wheat or whole grain penne pasta that will work for this recipe. I used a brand called Barilla and bought it at Vons/Safeway.


Serving Tip

This dish is very filling. I serve mine with a dinner salad of spring mix, purple cabbage, shredded carrots, sliced cherry tomatoes and tossing in Girard’s Light Champagne Vinaigrette.


Weight Watchers
(old points) 5

Weight Watchers POINTS PLUS 7

SKINNY FACTS: for 1 serving (1⅓ cup)
277 calories, 9g fat, 19g protein, 31g carbs, 4g fiber, 439mg sodium, 4g sugar
FAT FACTS: for 1 serving of Ina Garten’s Mac and Cheese
989 calories, 54g fat, 44g protein, 81g carbs, 4g fiber, 1736mg sodium, 5g sugar