Baked Penne with Spinach and Tomatoes is a healthy and easy dinner your whole family will love! It's a great way to sneak in tons of veggies in a classic baked pasta dish everyone will enjoy.
This healthy Baked Penne with Spinach and Tomatoes takes classic baked pasta and makes it healthier with a delicious combination of spinach, tomatoes, garlic, and cheese.
Sometimes I get in a pasta rut. Boil, toss in sauce, add protein, serve. I forget there are so many other ways to serve pasta. That you can cook it twice to really let the flavors meld together or to get the cheese on top all nice and brown and bubbly. Burned cheese is so good. (I may or may not burn cheese on purpose so that I can have some.)
For this recipe, okay...I guess it is kind of along the same line as boil, sauce, serve. But, when you bake it I feel like you can really get creative. Besides, I love a good baked pasta recipe. I mean what's not to like about pasta and tomatoes covered in melted cheese? If you answered "nothing" then you are correct!
Plus, this simple recipe uses ingredients you probably already have at home — high fiber pasta, canned diced tomatoes, spinach, and mozzarella cheese — and comes together relatively quickly (so bonus if you are in a hurry). It also can be assembled ahead of time and then just baked on that night (double bonus if you like to plan ahead).
The meal came together like this: I opened my pantry and pulled out the pasta, onion, and can of tomatoes. Then, I opened my fridge and dug out the spinach, cheese, and basil. The rest was easy to throw together, because what pasta dish is complete without garlic, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning? And I had an opportunity for some burned mozzarella. I mean, who am I to pass that up?
Side Dishes to Serve with Baked Penne with Spinach and Tomatoes
If you play your noodles right, you can probably make this dish an all-in-one. However, if you have company, enjoy more than one dish for dinner, or are just extra hungry then you might want to add one of these dishes on the side. I typically like to add veggie dishes as my side — especially if I'm having a carb-heavy main dish.
- Simple side salads go great with pasta. Always have, always will.
- If you're looking for a salad that's a little fancier (but still easy to put together and healthy) this Healthy Kale Caesar does the trick.
- Parmesan Roasted Broccoli is the most perfect side dish. I love broccoli with pasta — and it can cook up right with your pasta dish!
- If broccoli isn't your thing, then how about this Simple Roasted Asparagus?
- Garlic bread, breadsticks, Texas toast, or garlic knots pair very well with pasta. See if you can find one that has less butter and processed ingredients (try the bakery first) or make your own with extra garlic and Italian spices and less butter.
Ideas for Customizing Baked Penne with Spinach and Tomatoes
- If you don't love diced tomatoes, you can substitute in your favorite sauce or crushed tomatoes.
- If you want to add some protein to this dish, that's easy-peasy. You could add ground beef, ground turkey, lean sausage, or white beans.
- You can choose another kind of pasta, too, for this dish. Try gluten-free, whole wheat, or another favorite kind if you don't like the high-fiber variety.
- You can substitute some of the pasta for zoodles. You don't even have to pre-cook them (in fact, don't or they will get too mushy). Just add them to the pasta before you bake it and they will bake just fine in the sauce you made.
- If you don't like spinach, try frozen broccoli (you can add it to your pasta during the last five minutes of cooking and cook them together).
- If you have any leftover grilled veggies or other vegetables, you can add those to the dish as well. Baked pasta goes great with nearly any vegetable!
- You can also use a pizza cheese blend instead of (or in addition to) mozzarella. Or, try thin slices of Buffalo mozzarella instead of shredded.
What Is the Best Cheese for Pasta?
Typically, you'll find most pasta dishes served with a white cheese — mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta, pecorino romano (or another pecorino variety), or provolone. Sometimes you'll get combination of these cheeses as well. As for which one you should use — I say experiment and see which ones you like the best. I will say, though, that hard cheeses (pecorino, parmesan) pair better with a melty cheese (ricotta, mozzarella) than alone. Plus, harder cheeses will not melt and give you the desired creamy, cheese effect I'm sure you are going for.
Baked Penne with Spinach and Tomatoes
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- 8 oz. high fiber pasta (I used penne)
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
- 28 oz. canned diced fire roasted tomatoes
- 4 cups baby spinach
- 1/4 cup basil, chopped
- 1 cup shredded part skim mozzarella
- Salt and pepper
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Meanwhile heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 4-6 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning. Cook 1 minute and then add the tomatoes. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add the spinach and basil and cook until the spinach wilts.
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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