This Spinach Ricotta Pasta Bake is made with creamy ricotta with loads of fresh spinach stirred through pasta, topped with pasta sauce, cheese and then baked until bubbly and golden. This is a fabulous lazy Monday meal – made from scratch!
Spinach and ricotta. We stuff things with it (cannelloni, Rotolo), we layer things with it (lasagna), we use it for sandwiches (have you tried it in a toasted sandwich? So good!) and we wrap it in pastry (Cheese & Spinach Puffs).
So why don’t we stir it through pasta bakes?
This is a lazy Monday meal I’ve been making for years. I know it’s a little different, but it really is tasty. It tastes like spinach and ricotta stuffed shells – but without the labour!
Look at this pile of gooey, juicy deliciousness….no dry ricotta in MY pasta bakes!
Because this is a lazy meal, I make this with my shortcut homemade pasta sauce. It’s a shortcut recipe because I don’t cook it on the stove with sautéed onions and garlic like I ordinarily do. All I do is mix up my flavourings with tomato passata (pureed canned tomatoes) or canned crushed tomatoes then pour that over the pasta bake. To compensate for skipping the sautéed garlic and onions, I add extra flavours into the sauce. 🙂
The other thing I do which is a bit different (but for good reason!) is to loosen up the ricotta with milk. It makes it creamier and easier to stir through the pasta and the pasta bake stays nice and moist. I find that if you just mix through plain ricotta without adding milk, the pasta bake is pretty dry.
So – are you feeling lazy today too? -Nagi x
- 10 oz / 300g penne or ziti pasta (or other pasta of choice)
- 1 lb / 500 g ricotta (preferably full fat, low fat is a bit dry)
- 3/4 cup / 185 ml milk (any - I used low fat)
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 garlic cloves , crushed
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg powder , preferably freshly grated (optional)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 large bunch English spinach , leaves only, roughly chopped (3 tightly packed cups) (Note 1)
- 1 cup / 100g grated Mozzarella cheese
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 24 oz / 700g tomato passata (1 standard bottle) (Note 2)
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp dried Italian Mixed Herbs (Note 3)
- 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes , to taste (optional)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- Black pepper
- Parmesan cheese , grated
Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente (firm to touch, just cooked through). Drain and set aside.
Mix together the ricotta, milk, parmesan, garlic, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a very large bowl.
Stir through the spinach and Mozzarella cheese. Add the pasta and stir to combine. Transfer to a heatproof baking dish.
Pasta Sauce: Pour out about 1/4 cup of the passata onto the pasta (to make room to add flavourings). Then add the remaining Pasta Sauce ingredients into the bottle, screw the lid on and give it a shake.
Pour the Pasta Sauce over the pasta bake in the baking dish then top with cheese.
Cover and bake for 15 minutes, then remove the cover and bake for a further 15 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.
Serve while hot and fresh!
1. You could substitute with frozen spinach. Just defrost then squeeze tightly to remove excess water before stirring through the ricotta mixture. I usually use about 12 oz / 350g frozen spinach (just over 1 packet).
2. Mixed Italian Herbs is a dried herb mix you can get from the supermarket which costs the same as other herbs. You can substitute with a mix of other dried herbs - basil, parsley, oregano and thyme go particularly well.
3. Tomato passata is just pureed canned tomatoes, also called "tomato sauce" in the US. Nowadays it is readily available in supermarkets, usually alongside pasta sauces. It costs just a tiny bit more, sometimes the same, as canned tomatoes. If you can't find it, puree canned tomatoes or use crushed canned tomatoes (28oz/800g).
4. To freeze, I freeze it once cooked. Cover it with foil straight out of the oven (to seal in moisture), allow to cool, seal with cling wrap then freeze. To reheat, let it thaw (baking from frozen will dry it out because it takes so long!), then reheat at 180C/350F for 15 to 20 minutes until the inside is lovely and warm. I like to add an extra sprinkling of cheese to freshen it up!