Decadently Delicious and Low Calorie, Beefy Mac and Cheese Casserole



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


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
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

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23 Responses to “Decadently Delicious and Low Calorie, Beefy Mac and Cheese Casserole”

  1. Kerri Says:

    Hi! Have you ever used ground turkey for this recipe instead of beef?

  2. admin Says:

    Kerri, I sure have and it tastes terrific. I find ground beef and ground turkey interchangeable in most recipes. Hope you enjoy it!

  3. Kerri Says:

    thanks! can i put this together and then freeze it, then thaw and bake later? have you tried that before?

  4. admin Says:

    Keri, I’ve only stored this casserole in the freezer after baking it. I’ve never done it before so I’m not sure if it will work. Once baked, you can defrost and reheat in the microwave or oven, before serving. Good luck. Hope you enjoy it Kerri! If you do freeze it before baking, please let me know how it turned out…Thanks!

  5. becka Says:

    Have you ever made this with canned diced tomatoes when you didn’t have fresh?

  6. admin Says:

    Becka, I haven’t but I think it will be just fine. Be sure to drain the liquid first, before adding the tomatoes. Good luck. I hope you enjoy it!

  7. becka Says:

    Keri, turned out FABULOUS!! just drained and rinsed a can of tomatoes and only used about 2/3 of the can, chopped them a little finer. I was nervous the boyfriend would be able to tell it was a healthy mac and cheese but he loved it!!!! thanks!

  8. admin Says:

    Becka, thanks so much for your great feedback. I’m so happy to hear you and your boyfriend enjoy this mac and cheese!!!

  9. Donna Says:

    This was fantastic! Zucchini seemed out of place to me, but I’m so glad I included it. It really makes the dish!! Leftovers are even better! This is a “do again” , as we call it in our house. Great recipe!

  10. admin Says:

    Donna, thanks so much for the great review! I agree, the zucchini doesn’t sound like it would work with this dish but oh does it! I’m so delighted you enjoyed this recipe and the leftovers, too!
    I hope more of my recipes become a “do again” in your house.
    With best wishes,

  11. Elaine Says:

    Another delicious recipe. Thank you very much! I was wondering though, how many servings does this make overall? I wanted to re-do the calorie count because I live in Canada and we don’t have the same ingredients available so I was curious how my substitutes totaled.
    Thanks again, I’ve now made several of your recipes and am loving them and so is my waistline!

  12. admin Says:

    Thanks so much Elaine for your kind words. I’m so happy you’re enjoying my recipes!
    This recipe makes 6 servings (about 1⅓ cups for each serving)

    Best of luck to you,

  13. Aerona Says:

    Made tonight. I used the whole 15 oz of sauce as I forgot it only needed 10…turned out just fine. $1.21 a serving (based in current prices here) and 290 cals (I used normal shredded cheese and the whole jar of sauce).

    Smells amazing while cooking and tasty as well! My friend’s three year old requested seconds (I wouldn’t say this is necessarily kid friendly in the traditional sense but this three year old has skipped the picky stage so far). I will probably try making up my own Alfredo sauce next time though. To save in cost and weird ingredients I can’t name. 🙂

  14. admin Says:

    I love when you share your feedback Aerona! I’m so happy the 3 year old enjoyed it too.
    Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.
    With my best wishes,

  15. Terri Says:

    Made this tonight and it was DELICIOUS and easy!! My new “go to” recipe! My family loved it!!

  16. admin Says:

    I love and appreciate the feedback Terri. Thank you!
    With my best wishes,

  17. Decadently Delicious and Low Calorie, Beefy Mac and Cheese Casserole | The best diet blog ever! Says:

    […] By admin […]

  18. deb Says:

    I rinse ground beef with hot water to get rid of even more fat.

  19. admin Says:

    That’s a great idea too Deb. Especially when you’re making a recipe like this one. All the other ingredients add so much flavor. You don’t need the excess fat from the ground beef.

  20. michele Says:

    i made your stew was wonderful everyone enjoyed it my husband could not get enough

  21. admin Says:

    I’m thrilled to hear it Michelle. Thank you!

  22. Lindsay Says:

    Quick question about the serving size. Here is says 1 1/3 cup and on my fitness pal app the serving size says 1 3/4 cup. Which is correct?

  23. admin Says:

    Lindsay, I created this recipe many years ago, and I’m pretty sure the 1 1/3 cup serving size is correct. If you decide to make it, you can measure out 6 servings and see if it’s more. Wouldn’t that be nice!
    I hope you enjoy it.
    My best,

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