Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine

Weekly Recipe: Spinach, Ricotta, and Pasta Casserole

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I really, really hate letting anything go to waste.  I purposefully select recipes and “meal plan” our week to use up any ingredients in our fridge.  For example, if a recipe calls for chicken broth, I specifically seek out other recipes (that are varied enough not to bore us) that require chicken broth so that I can use it within the 10 days specified on the carton.  Same goes for any veggies, dairy products, etc. that might be living in our refrigerator.

The one area in which I have failed repeatedly to accomplish this feat is with ricotta cheese.  My husband loves lasagna, so I make it fairly frequently, but I haven’t found a use for the remaining ricotta, which inevitably goes bad before I make lasagna again.  So, imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled across this recipe in my Maine Home Cooking cookbook.  It resides on page 218, under the ‘Fresh and Seasonal’ category, and it requires nearly the exact amount of ricotta cheese that I had left over from making lasagna late last week.  Additionally, it includes spinach, which I am coincidentally trying to eat more of (along with kale, and other dark green vegetables), because my eye doctor recommended it for my long-term eye health.  Perfection!

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 package frozen, chopped spinach or 1 lb. bagged fresh spinach (I used fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1 pint of ricotta cheese
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of pesto (optional)
  • 8 ounces bow tie or rotini pasta
  • 1/2 lb. of mozzarella, grated

I added both the garlic and pesto (which my mother had made herself), and I highly recommend both.  It really set the dish off.

If using fresh spinach, wash it and spin it to remove excess water, then blanch or steam it.  Squeeze the water out of the steamed or frozen spinach and chop it up.

IMG_20130420_191731_778

Steaming spinach, boiling pasta…

Saute the chopped onion and minced garlic in the olive oil until soft.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the ricotta cheese in a medium bowl and stir into it the spinach, onions, garlic, and pesto (or your choice of seasonings).  I should mention, I also added about a 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese – because I had it, and it’s delicious – what other reason do I need?

Next step – boil and drain the pasta and mix into the seasoned spinach and ricotta.

Mix it all together...

Mix it all together…

Brush or spray a little oil in a 2-quart baking dish.  Put in half the mixture and sprinkle half the grated mozzarella, then add the other half and top with remaining mozzarella.

Layered pasta, spinach, and cheese, pre-baking

Layered pasta, spinach, and cheese, pre-baking

Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted on top and it is heated through.  Then enjoy!

Yum!

Yum!

This dish was exceptional.  I love pasta and cheese, so it wasn’t a long shot to wow me, but Nick is a little tougher.  While he (pretty much) always likes my cooking, I can tell when he really enjoys it because he says something along the lines of “wow, honey, this is really good.”  When that happens, I put it on my “make again” list.  This recipe just landed there.  I can’t recommend it highly enough!

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