Pantry Raid: Spinach-Tomato Alfredo with Rotini

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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, a jarred sauce, cheese, and some veggies to make this tasty Alfredo pasta dish in about a half-hour or less.

Here’s how I make it. To make things easy, it starts with a good, jarred pasta sauce.

I don’t have a strong preference for jarred sauces and generally try to make my own whenever possible, but sometimes, well, I just don’t feel like working that hard. In those cases, I generally end up with 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, I 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.) Another alternative would be to cut back on the amount of Parmesan and any additional salt in the recipe.

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.)

And if you don’t have fresh produce, don’t worry — use their frozen or pantry counterparts. Chopped frozen spinach can replace the fresh spinach (just remember to thaw and drain it first, squeezing out some of the liquid so it doesn’t dilute the sauce too much) and sun-dried tomatoes can stand-in for the cherry tomatoes.

Spinach-Tomato Alfredo with Rotini

Ingredients

1 box of rotini, ziti rigati, or penne rigati pasta
2 cups of prepared Alfredo sauce
1/2 cup milk
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
(Substitute 1 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped or sliced into strips, if needed)
1 cup shredded or cubed mozzarella cheese
2 cups fresh or frozen spinach leaves
(Substitute 1 box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained, if needed)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh basil and parmesan cheese, to serve

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fill a pot with water and add salt. Cook pasta 8-10 minutes or per directions on the side of the box. Remember that the pasta will finish cooking in the oven, so don’t overcook!

Combine prepared alfredo sauce with milk in a 12″ sauté pan. Add garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add spinach and cover, turning heat to low so the spinach can wilt while the pasta finishes cooking.

When the pasta is done, drain and add to the sauce along with tomatoes and mozzarella. Mix to combine, then transfer the mixture to an oven-safe baking dish and top with more cheese.

Bake for approximately 30-45 minutes or until you see bubbling around the edges. At the end of cooking, you may choose to broil on high for 1-2 minutes until even more brown and bubbly.

Serve topped with Parmesan and torn basil leaves.