|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 18g||22%|
|Saturated Fat 10g||50%|
|Total Carbohydrate 51g||19%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||12%|
|Total Sugars 6g|
|Vitamin C 5mg||23%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
Pasta and cheese bakes are not only the epitome of comfort food, they are also very easy to make. It’s no wonder they are favorite dishes to bring to a potluck, for large gatherings when you have to feed a crowd, or for a holiday when preparing some dishes ahead of time is the only way to get everything done on time.
This vegetarian pasta and cheese bake surely checks all those boxes. It uses baby spinach leaves which are so tender that they don’t require trimming or chopping or additional cooking and you can add them whole right to the sauce where they wilt in no time.
For a vegetarian dinner, serve this pasta casserole with a simple green salad. Or serve it as a special side dish along with grilled or baked chicken, shrimp, or chops. For a non-vegetarian variation, add 1 to 2 cups of diced cooked ham or chicken.
Instead of plain breadcrumbs, Italian-style seasoned breadcrumbs go well with the spinach and pasta combination.
To make this casserole ahead, prepare the sauce and assemble the ingredients but don’t add the bread crumb topping. Cover the dish tightly with foil and refrigerate it for one to two days. Preheat the oven and take the dish out of the fridge at the same time to let it warm up at room temperature. Remove the foil, scatter the bread crumb mixture on top and bake as described in the recipe.
You can store leftovers in the fridge for two to three days in an airtight container. Reheat them in the microwave or in the oven.
8 ounces pasta, such as twists, mini penne, etc.
8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Dash freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup soft breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Steps to Make It
Heat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease an 8-inch-square baking dish, or spray with cooking spray.
Cook pasta in boiling salted water following package directions; drain, and rinse with hot water.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat butter over medium-low heat. Stir in flour until smooth and bubbly. Add the milk, and continue cooking, stirring, until thickened.
Add the basil and the salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in the spinach leaves until wilted; stir in the hot drained pasta.
Stir in the mozzarella cheese until well blended. Spoon the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish.
In a bowl, toss breadcrumbs with the melted butter; sprinkle over the pasta mixture.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until nicely browned and hot.