Lightened Up Comfort Food Casserole

If chilly weather has brought cravings for comfort foods that don’t derail  healthy eating plans, this creamy pasta dish fits the bill.  Bright carrots, earthy mushrooms and a sprinkle of herbs add a splash of color and flavor, while a lightened sauce provides all the richness of a yummy casserole with fewer calories and less fat.  Round out the meal with fresh fruit or a side salad.

Baked Chicken Mushroom Penne

Makes 8 Servings


1 1/2 cups uncooked regular or brown rice penne pasta

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cooked and cut into 1″ cubes

2 slices whole grain bread or 2 cups crushed rice crackers

4 tablespoons canola oil

2/3 cup matchstick carrots

8 oz sliced and chopped button mushrooms

1/2 cup all-purpose flour or super-fine ground rice flour

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups 1% milk, Lactaid or enriched rice milk

1 cup water

1 cup low fat, low sodium chicken broth

1 teaspoon dried celery flakes

Parsley for garnish


Preheat oven to 375° C.  Cook and drain pasta according to the package directions, leaving out the salt and fat.  Crumble bread to make 2 cups of crumbs.  Toss with 2 tablespoons of oil, and set aside.  In a large saucepan, heat remaining oil over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and carrots, and cook until tender.  Stir in flour, mustard, onion and pepper.  Add milk, water, broth and celery all at once.  Cook and stir until mixture is slightly thickened and bubbly.  Remove pan from stove, and stir in pasta and chicken.  Pour everything into a 2 quart baking dish, and sprinkle with bread crumbs.  Bake, uncovered, 20-25 minutes or until filling is bubbling.  Sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Per Serving: 241 Cal (33% from Fat, 18% from Protein, 49% from Carb); 11 g Protein; 9 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 5 g Mono Fat; 30 g Carb; 3 g Fiber; 5 g Sugar; 90 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 176 mg Sodium; 15 mg Cholesterol

 Notes:  For a gluten-free recipe, substitute brown rice penne (such as Tinkyada) for the pasta, rice crackers for the bread crumbs and super fine rice flour for the all-purpose flour.  Lactaid can replace the milk for a lactose-free recipe, and rice milk can be used for a dairy-free recipe.  If food allergies are a concern, please check the labels of all ingredients carefully to avoid allergens or cross-contamination.


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