Pasta casserole is a casserole dish consisting of pasta as one of the main ingredients. It is prepared by mixing cooked pasta ingredients like meats, vegetables or mushrooms which may be cooked into a sauce. This is followed by a topping of cheese after which, the dish is baked till the cheese bubbles. The dish can be prepared in numerous different ways, and chicken pasta casserole, tuna pasta casserole and cheese macaroni casserole are popular examples.
Ingredients and Preparation
The pasta casserole recipe suggests use of pasta (of any kind, such as shell, penne or noodle-shaped pasta), spaghetti sauce, meat such as beef, chicken or turkey, fresh sliced mushrooms, tomatoes, any other vegetables of one's choice, flavoring herbs and shredded cheese. The ingredient combinations vary with individual recipes. Processed meat like sausage may also be used.
A basic pasta casserole can be prepared by simply mixing cooked pasta with a sauce such as white sauce or tomato based sauce, and then topping with breadcrumbs and/ or cheese and baking. Pasta is cooked in boiling salted water and drained before inclusion in the dish. Meats and vegetables are often cooked in the pasta sauce. The dish is baked till the cheese bubbles.
Pasta casserole is served hot, with accompaniments like salad and bread. It may also be served as a one-dish meal.
- Tuna Casseroles: These are a good option for budget casserole dishes, and can be made with various types of pastas like macaroni and spaghetti. Popular variants include tuna tetrazzini, tuna noodle bake, tuna farfelle casserole and tuna shells casserole with a crunchy cheese-cracker topping.
- Macaroni and Cheese Casseroles: This is a very popular category of pasta casseroles, and ingredients like jalapeno peppers or goat cheese may be used to prepare special versions of the basic dish. A classic version is prepared by mixing cooked macaroni with a white sauce made with flour, milk, cream, sharp Cheddar cheese and seasonings like salt, pepper and dry mustard. The mixture is topped with buttered breadcrumbs and then baked till bubbly.
- Chicken Pasta Casseroles: Chicken pasta casserole is a hearty dish often prepared for potlucks and large gatherings. Pasta such as penne, macaroni, campanelle or fusilli is often used, and a version with cooked kale is quite popular. Chicken lasagna, Chicken Noodle Bake, Macaroni with Chicken Sausage and Cheese, and Chicken and Mini Penne Casserole are other common versions. Most of these can also be prepared by substituting turkey with chicken.
- Mushroom Pasta Casseroles: Mushrooms, which are sliced and cooked by sautéing or frying, are a popular addition to pasta casserole dishes, often in combination with spinach, tomatoes, bacon, chicken or ham. Garlic, thyme and parsley are often used for flavoring such dishes.
Pasta casserole is a rich source of a range of essential nutrients from the vegetables or meats, pasta and cheese present in it. Meat is a good source of protein, vegetables are rich in various essential vitamins and fiber, pasta is rich in folic acid and cheese is an excellent source of calcium. Generous use of cheese adds many extra calories to the dish. A popular version made with pasta, beef, mushrooms and cheese contains approximately 750 calories, 30g fat and 150mg cholesterol.