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Ricotta & Spinach Pasta Bake – all the flavors we love in ricotta stuffed jumbo pasta shells, but so much easier to make in this deconstructed casserole!
When my kids were little I used to make ricotta stuffed shells on repeat. Nobody ever complained; we all love the flavors and I was thrilled to be able to hide copious amounts of spinach in with the cheese. We don’t eat a lot of pasta these days but when we do, I want it to check all the boxes!
Hearty and cheesy with bubbling rich tomato sauce, this is some serious comfort food my friends!
I went on a ricotta kick a few months back making Easy Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake, Light & Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes and this lovely Raspberry Ricotta Breakfast Cake. Ricotta is a wonderful ingredient to use in a wide variety of recipes. When I found an extra container hiding in the back of my refrigerator recently, savory ricotta stuffed shells immediately came to mind.
To simplify the process, I use hearty rigatoni pasta instead of jumbo shells that require stuffing.
This idea turned into a great pasta bake that I’m thrilled to serve company at our monthly family Sunday supper. The recipe makes a filling 8 to 10 servings so if you’re a smaller household, or empty nesters like us, you may want to divide the casserole into two or four smaller dishes. Once assembled, feel free to cover tightly and freeze for later! We adore make-ahead meals. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, this Ricotta & Spinach Pasta Bake reheats beautifully in the microwave making it great for meal-prep or office lunches.
Get a healthy helping of your daily greens in this cheesy casserole.
Our pasta bake recipe uses a full 6 ounces of fresh spinach leaves, or about 4 cups, packed. Once the pasta is cooked al dente and drained, it’s dumped back into the warm pot and combined with the fresh spinach. The heat from the hot drained pasta wilts the spinach while you prepare the ricotta mixture. No extra pans are needed to sauté the spinach, and no need to squeeze water from the frozen kind either. Easy peasy!
Half of the ricotta, cottage cheese, Mozzarella and Parmesan mixture is folded together with the pasta and spinach, then spread into the casserole dish. Dollops of the remaining ricotta mixture is placed on top then covered with your favorite marinara sauce. Top the casserole with a little more cheese and bake. Done and done!
Can you freeze Ricotta Spinach Pasta Bake?
This casserole freezes beautifully. Divide into individual servings and freeze in airtight containers. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat gently in the microwave. So good leftover too!
Can this casserole be made ahead?
Assemble this casserole the day you want to serve, cover and refrigerate. About 30 minutes before baking, remove from the refrigerator and allow it to rest at room temperature. Proceed as directed. Enjoy!
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Easy, cheesy and so delicious!
- 1 lb (16-ounces) Rigatoni or other pasta like Ziti or Penne)
- 6 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves, about 4 cups packed
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese, full fat
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3 small cloves garlic, minced
- dash of nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1 cup fresh grated Parmesan
- 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided
- 2 ½ to 3 cups marinara sauce
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 13x9-inch baking dish with vegetable cooking spray.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain the pasta then put it back in the warm pot. Add the spinach leaves to the pasta and gently toss or stir to combine. The leaves should wilt a little once they sit in the hot pasta. Set aside, stirring occasionally while mixing the cheese together.
- In a medium mixing bowl combine the ricotta, cottage cheese, beaten egg, garlic, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, parsley, basil, Parmesan cheese and 1 cup of the Mozzarella. Fold together until blended. Add a little more than half the cheese mixture to the pasta and spinach. Mix gently using a rubber spatula or large wooden spoon.
- Pour 1 cup of the marinara sauce into the bottom of the prepared pan and spread to cover. Pour the pasta and spinach mixture into the pan and then top with dollops of the remaining ricotta mixture. Spread the remaining marinara over the top. Cover the pan lightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and top with the remaining Mozzarella cheese. Continue baking (uncovered) until the dish is hot and bubbly and the cheese melted and lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes more.
- Serve with additional Parmesan and fresh parsley if desired.
Once assemble this pasta bake can be refrigerated for up to 8 hours, or frozen for up to a month for cooking later. Make sure it is well sealed. Remove from the freezer on the morning you plan to bake, and refrigerate until later. Add 5-10 minutes to the baking time while covered.
Here are a few more of our favorite easy and satisfying pasta dishes you might also like:
Turkey Tetrazzini Recipe – put your leftover turkey or chicken to work in this creamy, hearty casserole loaded with peas, carrots, Parmesan cheese and plenty of mushrooms. Click HERE to get the recipe!
Here’s a link to my favorite casserole/baking dish of all time. I make everything from brownies to lasagna is this pan and have never been disappointed. Worth every penny! Click on the photo for more information:
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Looking for more great pasta bakes? Check out this Baked Tortellini in Meat Sauce from Sarah at Dinner at the Zoo. I bet nobody leaves the table hungry after eating this lovely dish! Don’t miss this incredible Lasagna Soup from Lori at Recipe Girl. Talk about creative; I love lasagna and bet this is super tasty. And finally, who doesn’t love a simple dish that’s ready and on the table in minutes? This lovely recipe for Simplest Zucchini Parmesan Pasta from Tieghan at Half Baked Harvest is right up my alley, simple and fresh!
Thanks so much for stopping by! Tricia