Pasta casseroles are perhaps the ultimate combination of weeknight convenience and homey comfort food. Casseroles like this one don't take long to cook, and they can be put together the day before and baked or warmed up at the end of a long day. And yet these pasta bakes are comforting and delicious. This one has a double dose of spinach, spoonfuls of pesto, and, yes, plenty of cheese. It's a whole meal in one dish.
I really love spinach in pasta, and this one picks up spinach and runs with it. I start with spinach pasta, green and hearty, and toss it with fresh baby spinach, shallots, and garlic. If you would like to add some meat, stir in finely chopped chicken breast (no need to cook it first; it will cook through in the oven as the casserole bakes). The whole casserole is bound together with a creamy mix of yogurt, eggs, pesto, and a bit of cream.
The best thing, though, about this particular casserole is that it is sized down. Most pasta casseroles are designed for a big household or nights of leftovers. This one is baked in a 9x9 square dish and will make enough to feed a couple people dinner plus lunch leftovers. If you want more, just double it and put it in a 9x13-inch dish.
Double Spinach Pasta Casserole with Pesto & Asiago Cheese
12 ounces spinach pasta
5 ounces fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped, about 5 cups
2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 ounces Asiago cheese, grated
4 ounces raw chicken breast, finely chopped, optional
1/2 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup basil pesto, homemade or jarred
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease an 8x8 or 9x9-inch square baking dish with olive oil or baking spray. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat and add the spinach pasta. Cook according to package instructions, drain, and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, in a large bowl toss together the chopped spinach, shallots, and garlic. Toss with the Asiago cheese and the chicken breast, if using.
In a separate bowl whisk together the yogurt, cream, and pesto. Taste and add salt as desired, depending on the saltiness of the pesto. Stir in a generous quantity black pepper. Whisk in the eggs.
Stir the cooked pasta together with the spinach and shallot, then pour in the sauce and toss to coat. Spread in the prepared baking dish. (At this point the casserole can be covered and refrigerated overnight.)
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden-brown on top and lightly bubbling.
Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes then serve with a salad, like a colorful cabbage slaw, or roasted vegetables.
(Images: Faith Durand)