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Three simple pasta and cheese dishes

By Marge Perry
Special to Newsday
It is a rare soul who does not appreciate creamy cheese and pasta baked together and served piping hot out of the oven. For the cook, these dishes offer flexibility in timing; all may be prepared well in advance and baked just before serving.
Chicken Parmesan Pasta Casserole
8 ounces pasta
2 cups (10 ounces) diced roasted chicken breast
2 cups tomato pasta sauce, divided
1 1/2 cups shredded light mozzarella, divided
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and toss with chicken and 1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce. Stir in 1 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of Parmesan. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
3. Spoon the remaining 1/2 cup of tomato sauce over the casserole ingredients; sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan. Bake 10 minutes, or until cheese is thoroughly melted.
Makes 6 servings.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 345 calories, 33 grams protein, 32 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 9 grams fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 55 milligrams cholesterol, 548 milligrams sodium
Cheesy Cauliflower and Shells Casserole
8 ounces small shell pasta
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets (about 6 cups)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch nutmeg
2 1/2 cups skim milk, divided
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cups shredded light Cheddar
8 ounces Canadian bacon, diced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; add pasta and cook 4 minutes. Add cauliflower and cook another 3 to 4 minutes, until pasta is al dente and cauliflower is crisp-tender. Drain.
3. Meanwhile, combine flour, thyme, nutmeg and 1/4 cup milk in a small saucepan, stirring until smooth. Place the pan over medium heat and slowly whisk in the remaining milk and mustard. Cook, stirring, 7 to 8 minutes, or until mixture is thick and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the Cheddar cheese and bacon.
4. Combine the pasta-cauliflower and sauce and transfer to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and bake 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Makes 6 servings.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 385 calories, 31 grams protein, 45 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 10 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 44 milligrams cholesterol, 902 milligrams sodium
Greek Shrimp Casserole
8 ounces orzo
1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomato
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 cup crumbled feta
1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 2-quart baking pan with cooking spray.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add orzo and spinach and cook 9 minutes, or until orzo is al dente and spinach is thawed. Drain.
3. Toss the pasta mixture with the diced tomato, orange juice, olive oil and marjoram. Stir in the feta and shrimp and transfer to the prepared baking dish.
4. Bake 22 to 26 minutes, or until shrimp is cooked through. If the top begins to brown too much, cover it loosely with foil.
Makes 6 servings.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 334 calories, 27 grams protein, 36 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 10 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 137 milligrams cholesterol, 526 milligrams sodium
Tip
When freezing leftovers, separate into individual portions for reheating.
Wrap each portion in layers of plastic wrap, then place several in each freezer bag, squeezing out excess air.

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