I was contemplating calling this dish ‘Best Baked Pasta Ever’ but realized that calling my own recipe the best was probably not a good idea. I mean I wouldn’t want people to get the wrong opinion about me. I don’t actually think my food is THE BEST. It’s more that I’m just very proud of some of the recipes that come out of my kitchen that I can call my own. Some people feel a sense of accomplishment running a marathon others when they kick bad habits but for me I find it through my blog. No I don’t have millions of followers or celebrity blogger status but just the meer fact that I am able to create a recipe from my own trials and errors, take pictures and then share it with all of you makes it the best. It’s the best in the sense that your views, likes, comments, follows, shares and reposts remind me that all the experimenting, aggrevation, prep work, clean up, eating, throwing away, savoring and writing make every moment I spend doing this worth it. So without further adieu here’s MY best version of baked pasta packed with all the good stuff like protein, veggies and whole grains. Now tell me what’s a better dinner idea than that?!
Protein Baked Pasta with Spinach and Ricotta
Serves: 6-8/Total Cook Time: 1 hour
- 1 package of quinoa and/or brown rice pasta (I used Trader Joe’s GF Quinoa & Brown Rice Fusilli)
- 1lb lean ground beef (I used 85/15)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 c white onion, diced (1 small onion)
- 1 14.5 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes (I used Trader Joe’s Organic version)
- 3 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 c ricotta cheese
- 1 c mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 c parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 cup fresh spinach
- sea salt & pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of water and a pinch of salt to a boil over high heat. When boiling, add pasta and cook as directed on package. When done, remove from heat, strain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
- In a large sauté pan heat olive oil over medium heat and add ground beef. Cook, stirring occasionally, until brown and cooked through. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add onions and garlic and stir until translucent. Add tomatoes and 2 tbsp of chopped basil. Stir to combine and let simmer for 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly spray or grease a large 9x13in baking/casserole dish and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of ricotta, 1/2 cup of mozzarella, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and egg. Mix until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add pasta and beef tomato mixture to cheese mixture. Fold to combine to avoid breaking the noodles.
- Pour half of the pasta into the baking dish and spread to cover the bottom of pan. Top with spinach and remaining 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese.
- Cover evenly with rest of pasta and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella and 1/4 cup of parmesan.
- Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and cheese is bubbling.
- Serve warm and top with remaining tablespoon of fresh chopped basil.