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Orecchiette Italian Casserole with Pepperoni

To me, casseroles scream COMFORT FOOD.  I don’t make many casseroles (especially when they are laden with starchy pasta and cheese) but this one is delicious.  I have figured out ways to cut the fat content so it isn’t quite as indulgent calorically but still tastes great. Orecchiette is a super fun little pasta which holds the cream cheese mixture well.  In Italian, the word “orecchiette” quite literally translates to “small ear,” which is exactly how it looks.  It may not seem appetizing to be eating “small ears,” but watch out because this is one dish that will have you grabbing an extra helping.  The kids like it too!

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Orecchiette Italian Casserole with Pepperoni (Serves 8)

Ingredients:

1 lb orecchiette pasta (I haven’t found orecchiette in whole wheat but any other whole wheat pasta like penne or farfalle would work fine).

4 oz. light cream cheese

3/4 cup plain greek yogurt

3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided

1/2 cup low fat shredded mozzarella cheese

1 24 oz jar of marinara sauce (if you like spice, try arrabbiata sauce)

3 oz. pepperoni, sliced (can use turkey pepperoni or a low fat variety)

fresh parsley (optional)

Directions:

Boil pasta as directed.  Drain and put pasta back in pasta pan.  On stove top, add cream cheese, greek yogurt and 1/2 c. parmesan cheese and stir until melted.  In 13 x 9 in. pan (I usually spray with Pam just to avoid baked on cheese), layer half of the pasta on the bottom, sprinkle half of the pepperoni, top with half of the sauce and then repeat.  After both layer are complete, top with mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup parmesan.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until brown.  Top with with chopped fresh parsley or basil if available.