My mom was the inspiration behind this pasta bake (hi, Mom!). She was telling me the other day about this quick lasagna she made using premade spinach ravioli, and I thought, hmmm, I can do a whole-eating upgrade on that! I had a one-pound container of fresh organic spinach in my fridge begging to be put to use, and I had some Hodgson Mill Organic Whole Wheat Penne with Milled Flax Seed (non-GMO Project Verified!) on hand, because as much as I love eating whole grains, there is no way this proudly-one-quarter-Italian girl could give up pasta entirely! Most importantly, I had most of a one-pound ball of fresh mozzarella straight-chilling in my fridge. Spicy Spinach and Mozzarella Pasta Bake was born.
-1 12-ounce box of whole-wheat penne pasta
-2 tightly-packed cups spinach
-1 tsp. grapeseed oil
-1/4 of a medium-sized onion, diced
-1 tsp. minced garlic
-1 1/2 cups of your favorite pasta sauce (I like The Silver Palate line of sauces because they don’t add sugar; I used the tomato-basil variety here)
-1 vine-ripened tomato, diced
-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
-1/2 tsp. black pepper
-1/4 tsp. salt
-14 tsp. dried oregano
-1 1-lb. ball of fresh mozzarella
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta in a pot of boiling water with a dash of salt added until al dente, about seven minutes. Wash and drain spinach; pat it dry with a towel to remove excess moisture. Add it to a large mixing bowl.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the teaspoon of grapeseed oil and the diced onion; cook, stirring frequently, for about two minutes, until onions are translucent and lightly browned. Reduce heat slightly, add the garlic, and cook for another minute. Add to the mixing bowl with the spinach.
Once pasta is done, drain it in a colander and rinse with cold water to help remove excess starchiness. Add it to the mixing bowl along with the pasta sauce, diced tomato, and spices. Mix well, then spread evenly into a 9×13-inch baking dish. Cut mozzarella ball into slices and layer over the pasta mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cheese is your desired doneness. Makes about eight servings.