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 and a great option for a vegetarian main dish. Artichokes give a meaty texture and spinach and tomatoes add a wonderful flavor.

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
½ 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
½ 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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