Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Easy Pasta Casserole

This quick pasta casserole is very good and rediculously easy to do. With the exception of the dairy, all of the ingredients are inexpensive pantry (or freezer) staples, making this great for cooking on a budget while still being nutritious and tasty.

  • 1 pound tri-color rotini, farfale, or other casserole-friendly pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tub (15-16 ounces) of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesian cheese, divided (Please use the good stuff - ideally, it should have a rind that has "Parma" stamped on it. If you do use pre-ground stuff, at least get some from your store's deli instead of from a green can.)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (Yes, fresh from an actual nutmeg nut!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 4 jerks Worchestershire sauce (It's the secret ingredient!)
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup course breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve a 1/4 cup of the pasta water, drain, return to the cooking pot and set aside off heat.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Add spinach, shallot, garlic, and a heavy pinch of salt. Cook 2-3 minutes, until the shallot has softened and the garlic has lost its raw bite. Add ricotta cheese, half the Parmesian cheese, milk, nutmeg, chili flakes, pepper, and Worchestershire sauce. Contintue to cook over medium-low, stirring constantly until the cheeses and milk have come together. Add remaining kosher salt to taste. Dump the spinach mixture into the pasta pot and stir to combine. Spray a large casserole with nonstick spray. Pour the pasta/spinach mixture into the casserole and top with the mozzarella cheese. Mix the remaining Parmesian and breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the mozarella cheese. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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