Recipe: Four-Cheese Protein Pasta Bake
I love a good bake—they’re easy to put together, they usually provide for ample leftovers and they’re just tasty as hell. This particular one packs extra veggies and protein in the sauce and you hardly even notice (in a good way); it’s like when parents sneak veggies into their kids’ food and giggle to themselves in the corner about how clever they are.
I bet you never thought that puréed beans, spinach, leeks, garlic, parsley and ricotta could be delicious (or maybe you’ve never even used these six words in the same sentence before, which is fine), but there you’d be wrong. “Tasty” doesn’t even begin to describe this dish; it’s flavorful and filling with tons of added nutrients. You get to savor in the joy of eating pasta without feeling too guilty. It’s a win-win.
Technically this dish consists of just pasta, cheese and sauce, so feel free to add some extra ingredients if you’d like—onions, broccoli and peas would all go well, but keeping things simple is just as good too. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how nicely this all comes together; it might just end up being one of your new favorite meals! Prepare for leftovers, and prepare to devour them gladly.
1 box pasta (we used Ancient Harvest Veggie Curls)
1 leek, chopped
2 large handfuls spinach
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
Small handful fresh parsley
1 can cannellini beans, drained
1 can navy beans, drained
1 c. low-fat ricotta
1/2 c. olive oil
3 T. light Italian vinaigrette
Salt & pepper
3/4 c. marinara sauce
1/2 ball fresh mozzarella cheese
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese
1/3 c. cheddar cheese
1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, cook the pasta according to package directions and set aside.
2) Add the leek, spinach, parsley, drained beans, parsley, ricotta, salt, pepper, olive oil and Italian vinaigrette to a food processor and blend until smooth.
3) Mix the pasta and sauce together in a bowl. If the sauce is too thick, you might add a bit of vegetable broth.
4) Add the mixture to a 9-in. x 13-in. baking dish and pour the marinara sauce over it all. Tear the fresh mozzarella into shreds and sprinkle on top along with the cheddar and Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes and add to the broiler for an additional minute or so if you’d like the top to be extra crispy.