not your mom's casserole

actually, my mom doesn't make casseroles- thank god! her laziness manifests itself as cornish game hens, which i had enough times during my childhood to consider them the standard go-to meal.

(aside: when i was about twelve, in the land before cell phones, i was home alone with my baby brother and my mom was stuck in traffic. i was terrified that since my mom wasn't home we wouldn't have dinner, and actually tried to prepare cornish hens myself, thinking that covering them in kellogs' frosted flakes cereal was a good idea. obviously i was a crazy cook even back then!)

however, theoretically, mom's do make casseroles. and when they do they are usually a riff on campbell's soup, in solid form. sometimes they are actually tasty, like the ubiquitous thanksgiving green bean version, but they are always loaded with things that aren't so fresh, and aren't so good for you. which is why this casserole is such a revelation: fresh, tasty, healthy AND easy.

while this version is a pretty wintery one (butternut squash, kale, olives, feta), the basic plan is adaptable to any season. i can see this in the summer with zucchinis, cherry tomatoes, ricotta salata and basil. you can even spice the yogurt with curry powder for an indian flavor. also, a great go-to meal if you're stressed, or have to do your taxes. stick it in the oven, relax, and come back to find a delicious healthy meal. which is more than i can say for those sugar coated hens!

pasta casserole , adapted from 101 cookbooks

zest of one large lemon
8 ounces whole wheat pasta (we used pipe rigate)
1 cup butternut squash, chopped fairly small
3 handfuls kale loosely chopped
2 cups plain Greek yogurt (we used 2%)
2 egg yolks
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup olives, pitted and torn into pieces (we used kalamatas)
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped

preheat oven to 400F degrees, with a rack in the middle. butter a 8x12-inch baking dish and sprinkle with lemon zest and set aside.

bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it generously, and cook the pasta until al dente. right before you are done cooking the pasta, stir in the butternut squash and kale - for maybe 1 full minute. drain and run cold water over to stop cooking process.

whisk together the yogurt, eggs, garlic, salt and rosemary in a large mixing bowl. add the pasta-squash-kale mixture to the yogurt mixture and stir in half of the almonds. pour everything baking dish and sprinkle with olives and feta, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. remove from oven and serve sprinkled with the rest of the almonds.

lemon: $.50
pasta: $2.50
kale: $2.00
squash: $3.00 (they're about $2/lb, you're going to want 1 1/2 lbs)
almonds: $2.00 (these are the most expensive ingredient here by volume: you can easily sub them out for a cheaper nut)
yogurt: $5.00 (this is for the fage brand- it's a little pricer, but it's really good)
olives: $2.00
feta: $2.00 (this is half of a 8 ounce package)
about $20 and change, including the stuff you had at home. considering this feeds 8 people easily, it is a really great deal, despite the expensive yogurt and almonds.
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