Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Baked Pasta with Spinach and Mushrooms

I don't many people who will turn down a plate of ooey-gooey, cheesy pasta. (Needless to say, I'm not friends with a lot of vegans). Being a Wisconsin girl, I can hardly to say no to something bursting with cheese, but I still love my whole grains and veggies. With a few tweaks to Susie Middleton's recipe, I turned this dish into the perfect compromise of both of those food aspirations. Spinach is my favorite green in pasta, and mushrooms a natural companion, but kale or broccoli could also be wonderful in this recipe. This can be as homemade as you'd like, with homemade sauce and fresh-from-the-garden veggies (and even homemade pasta and cheese if you're so inclined), or can be thrown together quickly with store-bought sauce and frozen vegetables, making it a recipe suitable from everyone from the harried working mom to the hardcore foodie. It can also run the gamut from economical to truly luxurious, from family weekday dinner to special date night. Packed with nutrition and flavor, but adaptable to nearly any time frame, taste, or budget, this is a recipe that every (non-vegan) needs to keep in their back pocket.

Baked Pasta with Spinach and Mushrooms
adapted from The Fresh and Green Table
serves 4

Extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups homemade or purchased tomato sauce
Kosher salt
8 ounces dried (whole wheat) pasta of your choice (e.g. fusili, penne, cavatappi, rotini etc.)
8 ounces diced or shredded fresh mozzarella
3/4 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Parmesan) cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or thyme (or a combination)
8 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced and sauteed in olive oil until shrunken and golden brown
4 to 5 ounces fresh spinach, blanched and thoroughly drained or sauteed in olive oil until wilted

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Brush a 3-quart shallow gratin or other baking dish with olive oil. Put the tomato sauce in a medium mixing bowl.

2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add 1 teaspoon salt. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, or according to the package instructions. Before draining add 6 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to the tomato sauce and whisk to thin the sauce slightly. Drain the pasta in a colander and transfer it to the bowl of sauce. Sprinkle it with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the mozzarella, 6 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the herbs, mushrooms, and spinach to the pasta and stir well.

3. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish, spreading it in an even layer. Top with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake until brown and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Let cool for a minute or two and serve hot.

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