- 1/2 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 9 oz soy crumbles (thawed if frozen)
- 1 cup low-sugar spaghetti sauce
- 3/4 Tblsp red wine vinegar
- 1 Tblsp light butter
- 3/4 cup soy milk
- 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek-style (strained) yogurt
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Once cooked, put the noodles in a colander and run them under cold water to bring them to room temp (colder is fine, too). [It’s important that the noodles get cool-to-cold.] Once the pasta is cooked and cooled, set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Spray a 9″x7″ glass baking dish with nonstick spray; set aside.
- Warm a skillet on medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Once the skillet is hot, spray it with nonstick spray, then add the onions and sweat them for 5 minutes.
- Once the onions are translucent, add the soy crumbles, spaghetti sauce, and red wine vinegar; stir to combine, then simmer on low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, in a small pot melt the butter on low heat. Once melted, add the milk and bring the milk-butter combination to a boil over medium/medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Once the butter/milk starts to boil, drop the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- After 5 minutes, remove the butter/milk from the heat, and stir in the yogurt, nutmeg, and cooled pasta. Put the pot back on very low heat, and warm 1-2 minutes.
- Assemble the dish: Spread the meat/tomato sauce onto the bottom of the baking dish; layer the creamy macaroni on top of the meat/tomato mixture; sprinkle the top with the grated Parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the top is browned and the dish is bubbly.
- Once the dish is done, let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 servings.
Nutritional information per serving (approximates): 150 calories, 3.5 g fat, 17 g carbohydrate, 3.5 g fiber, 3.5 g sugar, 16 g protein.
Mental Cost (ingredient availability): Low.
Financial Cost (ingredient cost): Pretty low.
Emotional Cost (cooking skill level): Medium-high.
Time Cost (recipe preparation): High.
Life Cost (clean up time/effort): Medium-high.
Worth It? (rate from 1-5): 3.9999999
The Bottom Line: Will I make this recipe again?
I chose to make this recipe partly because it looked like it would be a semi-“easy” one. Casseroles are usually pretty simple to put together, and once they are baking away in the oven they are (obviously) hands-off…so I thought this would be a nice-and-simple dish to have on a lovely fall evening. Then I began actually making it – and I quickly learned that it has several different prep components occurring all at the same time. While the pasta is boiling the meat/tomato sauce needs to be assembled; and while that is simmering the cream/noodle mixture needs to be composed… and while each thing is easy enough to do on its own, they all require just enough tending (i.e., frequent stirring) to make moving between all of them kind of a hassle. To a newer cook, I suspect this could feel slightly overwhelming.
However, I pulled everything together with moderate ease; and as the dish was baking it smelled absolutely fabulous. When I took the finished baked dish from the oven, I was pleasantly surprised at how great it looked, too! But, the real success measure was still forthcoming: How would it taste?
When I took the first slice from the pan, it was obvious that the dish was composed of two distinct layers. However, the two parts worked really well together. I particularly liked the pasta/cheese layer: the texture was surprisingly firm and toothy, but it still had a solid cheese taste to it. The meat/tomato sauce layer was on the mild side flavor-wise, and it was a softer texture…. yet I think the difference between these two layers helped them each compliment the other, and yielded a balanced dish overall.
That being said, this dish *is* pretty darn mild. For folks who like punchy flavors, they may want to use a really spicy tomato sauce, or add some cayenne or red pepper flakes to the pasta sauce, or melt a stronger cheese into the cream sauce – or do all of the above. ;) For me, I’m okay with the mild aspect of the dish (though I’d probably choose a slightly more “peppy” pasta sauce next time); but I struggled with the time commitment – both in prep, and in clean-up. It took me 90 minutes of hands-on time to make this recipe (from the moment I started chopping and measuring to the minute I set the last washed dish down to dry) – and considering that the end result was ‘nice’ (but certainly not revolutionary or AMAZING), I just can’t justify spending that kind of time on an ‘average’ kind of meal.
So…. I might make this dish again if I punched up the flavors a bit (to elevate it from “Yeah, that’s nice” to “Oh WOW! That’s terrific!”); or I might look for an easier pasta bake. Still, I’m glad I made this, in that I got to learn how to make a simple pasta-cream sauce; that’s knowledge I can now apply to future recipes. So yay for that! :)