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Pantry Raid: Baked Spinach Rotini Alfredo

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I came home hungry from work one day and was too lazy to make something from scratch. It happens, right? Rather than resulting to take-out, I peeked around in my pantry and freezer for pasta, cheese, and some spinach to make this tasty Alfredo pasta dish in about a half-hour or less.

It’s perfectly OK to use a good, jarred alfredo sauce in this. I totally have in the past and did the little trick of adding onions and garlic to make it taste more like homemade, along with a little milk or cream to thin out the sauce (complete with adding it to the jar and giving the whole thing an ol’ swish around to get the last of the sauce out.) If you have a little extra time, then alfredo sauce is definitely better to make and still requires just a few simple ingredients: garlic, butter, cream, and parmesan.

When making the sauce, choose a pan that will be large enough to hold the pasta when it is done cooking; a 12″ sauté pan is generally a safe bet to use to toss everything together. (Not sure what that is or if you have one? Serious Eats gives a good overview of the difference between a saute pan and a skillet.)

If you do decide to go the extra-easy route (no shame in that) and use a jarred sauce, use a higher-end or organic jarred sauce, like Newman’s Own. The problem with any of these, organic or not, is they tend to be salty. As a rule of thumb, try to go with the one one that has the lowest sodium content and the shortest ingredient list (i.e., the one with the least amount of “junk” added to it.)

And if you don’t have fresh spinach, don’t worry — use frozen. Just remember to thaw and drain it first, squeezing out some of the liquid so it doesn’t dilute the sauce too much.

Baked Spinach Rotini Alfredo
Servings: 8
  • 1 box of dried rotini pasta
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 2 cups light cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese plus 1/2 cup extra for topping and to serve
  • 1 cup shredded or cubed mozzarella cheese plus 1/2 cup extra for topping
  • 3 cups fresh spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan and fresh basil to serve
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large 12" sauté pan over medium heat, cook onions and garlic in a little butter until lightly golden and tender, about 5 minutes. 

  3. As onions are cooking, cook pasta per package directions in boiling, salted water until just done (for me, this was about 8-9 minutes of cook time.) Drain but don't rinse pasta. 

  4. Add cream, 1 cup parmesan cheese, and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until cream reduces and sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes.

  5. Add pasta and spinach to pan, stir, and cover until spinach has wilted slightly, about 3 minutes. 

  6. Add mozzarella, then transfer the mixture to an oven-safe baking dish and top with remaining 1/2 cup each mozzarella and Parmesan.

  7. Bake approximately 30-45 minutes or until brown and bubbly. At the end of cooking, you may choose to broil on high for 1-2 minutes until even more brown crust on top.
  8. Serve topped with Parmesan and torn basil leaves.