Fresh out of the oven – four cheese baked penne with a panko crust!

I know what you are thinking – how can Bob make cheesy pasta and claim to be cooking healthy? LOL! It’s all about the cheese you pick!

In this case – I use:

  1. Small-curd low-fat cottage cheese: All the protein and calcium with almost no fat!
  2. Part-skim ricotta cheese: It’s still as creamy and delicious but this version saves 40% of the fat of normal!
  3. and part-skim mozzarella.

The best part – is these cheeses don’t compromise the flavor and the cheesy texture. I always get flack from folks when I mention lowfat cheeses, somehow suggesting they’ll taste like cardboard. Let me assure you, that it’s simply not true.

The cheeses were easily found in the dairy case at the supermarket – and as long as you use the fresh herbs – you won’t be worrying about flavor at all.  The red pepper flake gives the dish a spark of heat – and I like to dice spicy sausage into the mix as well.

 

 

Four Cheese Baked Penne

 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound whole-wheat penne
  • 1/2 pound sliced spicy sausage (Andoiulle or Cajun?)
  • 1 1/2 cups small-curd low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (8-ounce) can low-sodium tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan (3/4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella and parsley in a bowl and stir with a fork to incorporate and set aside. Cook pasta until tender but still firm, a minute or 2 less than the package directs. Drain.

Heat the oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano, rosemary, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until sauce thickens slightly. Return pasta to pot with sauce and turn off heat. Add cottage cheese mixture.

Spray a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray then transfer pasta mixture to pan. Mix together the parmesan and panko – then sprinkle over the top to give it that crunchy delicious topping like Mom used to make. (really!)

Bake until heated through and cheese is melted, 30 minutes. The bread crumbs should be a lovely crispy golden brown.