Comfort Food: Baked Pasta

There is something wholly satisfying about baked pasta dishes. I know my mom is already laughing at this statement as one, if not my least, favorite dishes in the world is lasagna. I still vouch that it is just because of the tomato issue (see original rant here). But truly, what’s better than a cheesy, bubbly, saucy plate of pasta on a cold night?

The Quad City area got the first real feel of “January” in a while last night. We had rain, ice, snow- not so much to cause problems, but just enough to remind us that it was miserable outside and that our countdowns to spring needed to happen a little longer. Honestly, it was one of those nights where I wanted pizza, Chinese, and maybe something else to just magically appear in front of me and then magically not have to clean up or move after. But I knew I was going out for dinner on Thursday night, so I buckled down and mentally committed to cooking. I’m glad I did; this meal was delicious.

If you are hesitant about eating more vegetables, or uncertain of how to add more leafy greens to your current menu, try something like this baked pasta. It can be as carb/calorie conscious as you want, and easily accommodate a leafy green other than spinach in the sauce (something like kale for instance). Mitch and I both agreed that you don’t even miss the lack of meat in it since it is just so filling and tasty. Warning: if you follow the recipe as I did, you will have a lot of pasta, but it makes a great leftover!


Baked Pasta with Spinach

Ingredients:

  • One box of pasta (I used whole wheat penne, but you can use any variety or shape you like)
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 10oz frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil (as it is January in Iowa, I did not have this. I used a stir in paste and it worked great)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8oz ricotta (again, here is another place where you can sub in fat-free, low-fat, etc)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese (again, sub in fat-free, low-fat, etc as desired)

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  3. Boil salted water, and add the pasta. Cook 3-4 minutes less than the package instructions.
  4. While the water is heating, saute the garlic in the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes, spinach, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Simmer until pasta is ready to be combined.
  6. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it well and return to the pasta pot.
  7. Add the sauce, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and 1 cup of the mozzarella and combine well.
  8. Add to the prepared dish and top with remaining cup of mozzarella.
  9. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes
  10. If desired, uncover for the last two minutes of time and allow cheese to brown slightly on the top under the broiler.
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