I am trying a new recipe out for dinner tonight. Hoping it turns out nicely, since we have friends coming over for dinner. This is modified version of one I found at All Recipes for Southwest Pasta Bake. I am modifying it to be more Italian, than Southwest. The spice of the Southwest flavor might be a bit too much for the kiddos.
As well, the original made 8 servings. I am doubling this recipe. Thinking ahead to next week and preparing a meal for one of our dinners, even if it is “Leftover Day,” which tends to be Thursdays.
As well, I am not using fat-free ingredients. Although I purchase learner cuts of meat, I prefer to use regular dairy products. To me, the taste and texture are far superior to the fat-free varieties, especially in the case of melting cheese. I, usually, eat a smaller portion, but that is a small sacrifice for a great meal. I just increase the vegetables or salad, in order to be satisfied.
Penne Pasta Bake
- 16 ounces uncooked penne pasta
- 16 ounces of cream cheese, cubed
- 1 cup of milk (I, actually, ran out of milk, and will be using cream!)
- 2 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (Oftentimes, I cook and freeze spinach myself, since I purchase the enormous package at Costco.)
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 lbs lean ground beef (Or, you can use 1lb of ground beef, 1 lb of ground turkey or chicken)
- 2 teaspoons of Italian seasonings
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 (28 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
- 2 (26 ounce) can of spaghetti sauce (I use the “No Added Sugar” variety. You could easily just use the equivalent of more crushed tomatoes, plain tomato sauce, or a combination of sauce and tomato paste.)
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Fresh basil cut in chiffonades
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add milk; beat until smooth. stir in spinach and oregano; set aside. In a nonstick skillet, cook beef, add Italian seasonings, salt and pepper, along with the onion and bell pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink, add garlic at the end. Make sure not to burn; drain. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, spaghetti sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Drain pasta; stir into meat mixture.
- In two (2) 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray, layer half of the meat mixture and all of the spinach mixture. Top with remaining meat mixture. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes minutes. uncover; sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Top with basil chiffonades. Let stand for about 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve with a green salad, dressed with Balsamic Dressing. (You can use the same one that I created for the Pasta Salad. The link will take you to that recipe.)