Foodies probably don't like to admit it, but nearly everyone loves a good casserole.
Trouble is, casseroles don't have a lot of love for healthy diets. Especially when you reach back to the '60s, an era of classic casseroles — like turkey tetrazzini — that were made all the more delicious with gobs of heavy cream, butter and cheese.
So without sacrificing the "creamy" comfort of the dish, we set out to make a delicious casserole minus the guilt.
As with traditional versions of this dish, we started out with leftover turkey. Use the leaner turkey breast and trim off any skin or fat. If you don't happen have cooked turkey handy, a rotisserie turkey breast or chicken from the grocer will work.
We also kept the mushrooms, though we opted for fresh ones over the canned variety. We threw in some chopped red bell pepper and chopped asparagus, too. Color in vegetables adds more than just eye appeal; different colors are indicative of different nutrients.
But the real heavy hitters in this casserole are the white pasta, cream sauce and cheese.
The pasta was an easy fix. Using whole-grain pasta adds fiber and nutrients. The cream sauce was another matter. We used fat-free half-and-half as our base, but you could substitute fat-free evaporated milk. Thickened up to a creamy consistency, we were off to a good start.
Lastly, we used just a bit of assertive Parmesan. Then we topped it all off with seasoned panko bread crumbs for a nice crunch.
Start to finish: 45 minutes (30 minutes active)
12 ounces whole-grain spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
2 teaspoons onion powder, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, divided
1/4 cup dry sherry
3 cups cubed cooked turkey breast
2 cups fat-free half-and-half
3 tablespoons instant flour (such as Wondra)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large casserole dish with cooking spray.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the mushrooms and garlic, then season with salt and black pepper. Saute until the mushrooms are well browned and release all their liquid, about 10 minutes. Add the asparagus and red pepper and cook for another 4 minutes.
Stir in 1 teaspoon of the onion powder, 1 teaspoon of the paprika and the sherry. Cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Add the turkey and set aside.
In a small saucepan over low heat, bring the half-and-half to a simmer. Whisk in the instant flour, then bring to a boil. Cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl, stir together the panko, garlic powder, parsley, remaining 1 teaspoon of onion powder and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of paprika.
To assemble the casserole, stir the cooked spaghetti and the cream sauce into the skillet with the turkey and vegetables. Spoon this mixture into the prepared casserole dish, then sprinkle the seasoned panko over it. Spritz the top of the panko crumbs with cooking spray and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden.
Nutritional information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 330 calories (45 calories from fat, 13 percent of total calories), 5g fat (1g saturated, 0g trans fats), 40mg cholesterol, 48g carbohydrates, 23g protein, 6g fiber, 250mg sodium.