A dish of pasta, baked with sauce and topped with melted cheese. That’s the definition of a pasta bake. What can be more comforting than that? The only problem is, most recipes provide a TON of calories from pasta and cheese, not to mention sodium and saturated fat.
The key to making a healthy pasta bake is to load it with vegetables! This mushroom spinach pasta bake will answer all your prayers… It tastes luscious, yet provides a ton of nutrients, vitamins, fiber, and protein; and all this for a reasonable calorie count. What’s not to like?
How to make mushroom spinach pasta bake step by step
Granted, this recipe requires a bit of work. But trust me, it’s worth it. While an experienced cook can put this together in 30 minutes or less by using down time to make some of the prep work, I strongly recommend that the first time you make it, you have all your tools out and all your ingredients ready, sliced, chopped, minced and shredded, before you get started. The rest will then be a breeze.
- Steaming the spinach. This is the first thing you should do, as you will need to let the spinach cool down to a temperature where you can chop it without burning your hands.
- Cooking the mushrooms. They get cooked in a skillet with the shallots until the liquids are evaporated. We add garlic to that and cook another minute to soften it.
- Making the ricotta blend. Mix your ricotta, eggs and spices together in a bowl large enough to hold all ingredients and the pasta.
- Cooking the pasta. Follow the package instructions for al dente. I’ve used fusilli pasta this time, but penne or ziti would work great, and you can experiment with other shapes you like as well.
- Mixing all components together and layering them in the baking dish. Once all components are ready, they come together and get a nice stir so the vegetables are nicely spread throughout the dish. I like to layer half of the shredded cheese in the middle, then spread the rest on top.
- Baking the dish. First 30 minutes covered, then another 10 minutes without cover. If you want extra browning on top, you can turn on your broiler for the last 2 minutes or so. Once out of the oven, let it rest a few minutes before cutting.
- As mentioned above, I’ve used whole wheat fusilli pasta from Delallo, but penne or ziti would work great, and you can experiment with other shapes you like.
- You could use frozen spinach if fresh is not available. The vegetables being the star of this recipe, though, I recommend fresh as it will taste infinitely better in my opinion.
- Any kind of mushroom is fine. I used white button mushrooms, but baby portabellas or a mix of shitake, white or wild mushrooms would be great.
- In a pinch, shallot can be replaced by red onion. It will not have the same depth of flavor though.
- If you want to make the recipe even healthier, you can use part-skim ricotta cheese; that will lower the saturated fat content by a couple of grams. I like to use full fat myself as it provides all the creaminess you can dream of. Also, part-skim ricotta usually contains added gum and is more processed than whole milk ricotta.
- A sharp cheddar is nice to use as just a small amount adds a punch of flavor. You could also use Gouda, Emmental, Swiss or even Mozzarella, but the flavor won’t be as intense. In lieu of Pecorino Romano you can use Parmigiano Reggiano, Asiago or Manchego. I like Pecorino as it has almost as much flavor as Parmigiano but is cheaper where I live…
As I said, it may sounds more complicated than it really is. Have fun making this mushroom spinach pasta bake. Once you dig into it, I guarantee love at first bite! Enjoy!
Other recipes to try:
Mushroom spinach pasta bake
- 1 lb fresh spinach
- 14 oz mushrooms sliced
- 1 shallot chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 15 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 4 oz cheddar cheese shredded
- 2 oz Pecorino Romano shredded
- 8 oz whole wheat fusilli pasta
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Place a steamer basket in a large stock pot. Add 1" of water. Cover and bring to a boil.
- Add spinach, cover and steam for a minute or two until it is wilted down.
- Transfer spinach to a strainer and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Let it cool down while you cook the mushrooms.
- Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Add shallots, mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until liquids have evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook another minute. Remove from the heat.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Cook the pasta in a large amount of salted water according to package directions for al dente.
- Shred cheddar cheese and Pecorino into a small bowl and combine.
- In a large bowl, place ricotta cheese, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg and combine.
- Take spinach out of the strainer and chop coarsely on the cutting board.
- Add mushrooms and chopped spinach to the bowl with the ricotta mix, stir until combined.
- Drain the pasta and add to the bowl. Combine.
- Oil baking dish with 1 tbsp olive oil. Pour in half of the pasta mix. Top with half of the cheddar cheese and Pecorino mix. Continue with the other half of the pasta and finish with the rest of the cheese.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove foil and continue baking for 10 minutes.
- Rest 5 minutes before serving.