Light Family Favorites: Pasta Pie

If you ask anyone what their favorite comfort food is, I bet a pretty large percent of people will respond with some sort of pasta dish. Pasta is one of those meals that is pretty easy to make and pretty hard to mess up.

There are a ton of varieties and small changes you can make to try something slightly different. For example, you can change the type of pasta, the sauce, or the things you add into the dish, like the veggies or meat. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever met someone who did not love pasta in some way, shape or form.

Pasta was a weekly meal in my house growing up. My dad always insisted on having pasta on Wednesdays because of the 1969 commercial for Prince Spaghetti that declared Wednesdays to be “Prince spaghetti day.” I guess that commercial really stuck with him, because for as long as I can remember, we were chowing down on pasta every Wednesday night. 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t eat the same exact meal every single week. It’s not as appealing to me, and I get bored. My mom would switch up what kind of sauce we would have from week to week, switch from spaghetti to linguini, or even on occasion make spaghetti squash for a really different take. One of our favorite pasta night meals is my mom’s Pasta Pie, which I decided to lighten up this week.

 
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I know, Pasta Pie sounds like a dessert made with noodles, but it’s actually a really beautiful, savory pie. This meal takes a regular pasta dish and turns it into something elegant looking that’s really easy to serve and portion out. Pasta Pie looks like it took you hours to make, when in reality, it’s and not very time consuming whatsoever. It’s a very easy recipe that just about anyone can make (especially if you cheat and use a jarred sauce!).

This dish typically uses ground beef, olive oil, butter, and full-fat cheese. I decided to try and lighten this up with lean ground turkey, reduced fat cheeses, and spray oil. These changes may seem small, but they make a big difference in the calories and fat content of this meal.

To make this meal you will also need a 9-inch springform pan. You can use a regular cake pan or something similar, but you’ll really get to appreciate the beauty of this meal if you go with the springform pan method. Also, in order for this recipe to hold its shape, you MUST let the pie rest (step 16). If you rush it, your pie will fall apart and your masterpiece will turn into a regular, boring pasta dish.

Ingredients

1 pound rigatoni
Spray oil
Small drizzle of olive oil
1 pound lean ground turkey
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
Salt (to taste)
1 cup finely grated reduced-fat Parmesan cheese
8 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit

2) In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until slightly underdone

3) Drain and rinse the pasta with cold water

4) Toss the pasta with a small drizzle of olive oil to coat it (so it doesn’t stick together), then set the pasta aside

5) Spray a large skillet with oil and heat on medium-high

6) Add ground turkey to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally until browned

7) Add garlic, and salt and pepper to taste, then cook 2 minutes more

 Pasta packed on its end (step 11)

Pasta packed on its end (step 11)

8) Add crushed tomatoes, then simmer until thickened (about 20 minutes)

9) Toss pasta with Parmesan cheese

10) Spray a 9-inch springform pan with oil

11) Tightly pack pasta into pan, standing each piece on its end

12) Spread meat sauce on top of pasta

13) Push the meat sauce into the pasta holes filling each one up (the back of a wooden spoon can help with this)

14) Bake uncovered for 15 minutes

15) Remove from the oven and sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top, then bake for another 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and golden

16) Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes 

17) Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the pie, and then remove from the mold

18) Cut into wedges and serve with any remaining meat sauce you might have

So what did I think of these changes? They did this recipe justice. I couldn’t even notice the difference between this one and the original. This pie was still just as comforting as it was when I was growing up, not to mention it looked just as beautiful. This is definitely a lightened family favorite to add to your Wednesday night pasta routine. Some alterations I may consider trying in the future might be to use different types of sauces, like alfredo, vodka sauce, or maybe something with a spicy kick.

If you try this out, and if you use any of the alternative sauce ideas, let us know what you think!

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