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Pasta in tomato sauce with ricotta, melted cheese and basil
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Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Bake

Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Bake, packed with lots of spinach, creamy ricotta and a deliciously rich tomato sauce. This is perfect cosy comfort food! Hearty, comforting and so delicious. This tasty pasta bake is great for when the weather turns cooler.
Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 399kcal

Ingredients

For the sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion finely chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • ½ tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 24oz jar of passata (680g)
  • ½ cup of water
  • ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp cracked black pepper

For the pasta bake

  • 8 oz baby spinach (350g)
  • 18 oz ricotta (500g)
  • 16 oz pasta (450g) I used Pennoni Rigati, penne or fusilli work very well too.
  • ½ cup hard Italian cheese finely grated, you can use parmesan if you're not veggie.
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • A small handful of fresh basil chopped, plus more for serving
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 ¼ cup of mozzarella (125g) grated

Instructions

To Make the Sauce

  • Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and celery and saute until springy, about 5 minutes. Add 2 minced cloves of garlic and ½ a tbsp of dried oregano to the pan then cook for another minute.
    Pour in the bottle of passata. Pour half a cup of water into the passata jar, put the lid back on tightly, shake the bottle then pour that into the saucepan too.
    Add ½ a tbsp of balsamic vinegar to the sauce along with 2 or 3 sprigs of thyme and 1 dried bay leaf. Stir the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to the boil then reduce to a simmer and leave to simmer, stirring often. Let the reduce until it is thick so it coats the back of a wooden spoon.

To Make the Pasta Bake

  • Preheat the oven to 356F/ 180C
    Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions and until the pasta is almost al dente.
  • In a saute pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil then add the spinach and cook until wilted. You will need to do this in 2 or 3 batches. Once all the spinach is wilted and has cooled a bit squeeze as much liquid out of it as you can. Roughly chop the spinach.
  • Add the ricotta, ½ a cup of grated hard Italian cheese, 1 minced clove of garlic, the chopped basil and the spinach to a large mixing bowl. Grate in the nutmeg and season with salt and black pepper, about half a teaspoon of each should do.
    Mix everything together until it is combined.
  • Pour the drained pasta into a large casserole dish. Add the spinach and ricotta mixture to the pasta. Gently mix the spinach and cheese through the pasta.
    Fish put the thyme and bay leaf from the tomato sauce. Pour the sauce over the pasta.
    Using a spoon make little wells in the pasta so the sauce falls through to the bottom of the dish. Gently mix the sauce in a little if you want. It will spread out when cooking though.
  • Sprinkle the grated mozzarella and Italian hard cheese over the pasta. Then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling, the cheese has melted and some of the pasta edges are crispy. If you have made the sauce the day before this will take a little longer in the oven.
  • Remove the pasta bake from the oven, leave it to cool slightly before serving. Serve with extra grated cheese, a sprinkling of chopped basil and some cracked black pepper.

Notes

  • Nutritional Information is approximate and is calculated using an online nutrition tool. It is based on a serving of six.
  • Cheese, full-fat cheese will give you the best results for this pasta bake. However, I have used a reduced fat mozzarella for the topping and that worked very well too.
  • Pasta, I used Pennoni Rigata for this but penne, fusilli work very well too. I have also made this with whole wheat pasta which worked very well also. Try not to over cook the pasta when cooking it on the hob, if the pasta is too soft going into the oven it could end up a bit mushy!
  • Passata, when it comes to passata, try and get authentic Italian if you can. If you are in the US and can't find it the best substitution is tomato purée or take plain canned tomatoes and run them through a sieve.
  • Leftovers, any leftovers can be stored in the fridge once cooled. You can reheat it in the oven or microwave. You can freeze this but there may be some change in the texture due to the amount of cheese in it.
  • Casserole Dish. I used a 24cm x 24cm (9.5 x 9.5 inch) square casserole dish for this.

Nutrition

Calories: 399kcal | Carbohydrates: 37.9g | Protein: 24.2g | Fat: 17.1g | Saturated Fat: 8.7g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 756mg | Potassium: 425mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Calcium: 475mg | Iron: 3mg