Friday, September 5, 2014

Spinach artichoke pasta bake

Pasta baked with juicy tomatoes, artichokes, spinach and mozzarella becomes a cheesy indulgence, an ultimate Italian comfort food. Make a casserole for Sunday brunch or serve as a side dish with any grilled meat, this is sure to please everyone at the table. A great dish to make for potlucks.

Ingredients: (serves 6-8)
4 cup dry pasta (macaroni, pastina or any small pasta)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups cooked cubed chicken or ham (optional)
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
1 can artichoke hearts (drained and diced)
crushed red chili pepper flakes, as per your spice quotient
1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp flour
1 cup sour cream or plain hung yogurt
1 cup whole milk
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh/dry thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a large casserole dish. 
  2. Cook pasta in salted, boiling water according to package directions to a firm with a bite state (little less than al dente) . Drain and set aside. 
  3. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil and add in the onion, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for 2-3 minutes to slightly soften them. Do not brown. Add the flour and cook for a further minute to take the raw flavor out. 
  4. Add in warm milk whisking slowly to avoid any lumps. Reduce heat to low. Stir in sour cream, Parmesan cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, salt, black pepper, thyme and nutmeg. Stir until everything is well-combined and melted. Turn off heat. 
  5. Combine the cooked pasta, cooked chicken/ham (if using), spinach, artichoke and tomatoes in a large bowl. Add in the sauce and gently stir to coat. 
  6. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining mozzarella. 
  7. Bake uncovered for about 20 -25 minutes ... or until casserole is bubbly and beginning to brown. 
  8. Serve hot with crusty garlic bread.

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