Baked Penne with Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina Recipe

Indulge in a comforting and flavorful dish that marries the earthy notes of spinach with creamy ricotta and fontina cheeses. This baked penne recipe offers a delightful, melt-in-your-mouth experience in every bite. The nutty parmigiano reggiano adds depth while fresh basil brings a pop of freshness, creating a truly satisfying meal. It's an ideal dish for a cozy dinner or a family gathering.

Baked Penne with Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina Recipe
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Most of the ingredients in this recipe are quite common and readily available in most grocery stores. However, fontina cheese, a key component of this dish, might require a visit to a specialty store or the cheese aisle of a large supermarket. It's an Italian cow's milk cheese that is creamy and mildly nutty, perfect for melting. If you can't find fontina, you can substitute it with another melting cheese like gruyere or a mild cheddar.

Baked Penne with Spinach, Ricotta, and Fontina Ingredients

Penne: This is the base of our dish. Its tube-like shape is perfect for holding onto the creamy sauce.

Spinach: Frozen spinach works great in this recipe. It adds a nice earthy flavor and is packed with nutrients.

Basil leaves: They add a fresh, fragrant note that balances the creaminess of the cheeses.

Ricotta cheese: This is a creamy Italian whey cheese that adds a rich, creamy texture to the dish.

Cream cheese: It enhances the creaminess of the sauce and adds a slight tang.

Half-and-half: This is a mixture of equal parts milk and cream, and it makes the sauce rich and velvety.

Fontina: This is a creamy Italian cheese with a mild, nutty flavor. It's perfect for melting and gives the dish a luxurious feel.

Parmigiano reggiano: This is a hard, granular cheese from Italy. It's nutty, salty and adds a deep flavor to the dish.

Garlic: It adds a nice aromatic base to the dish.

Salt: It helps to enhance all the other flavors in the dish.

Black pepper: It adds a bit of heat and complexity.

Nutmeg: Nutmeg provides a subtle, warm flavor that complements the creamy ingredients.

One reader, Ermin Forney says:

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This baked penne with spinach, ricotta, and fontina recipe is a game-changer! The combination of creamy ricotta, flavorful fontina, and nutritious spinach creates a heavenly dish. The flavors meld together perfectly, and the golden, bubbly top adds a delightful crunch. It's a definite crowd-pleaser!

Ermin Forney

Techniques for Making Baked Penne with Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina

Preheat the oven: Set the oven to 450°F and position the rack in the middle. Lightly oil a 9 x 13-inch ceramic baking dish.

Cook the penne: Boil the penne in salted water until al dente, approximately 9 minutes. Drain and return the penne to the pan, setting it aside.

Prepare the spinach mixture: In a food processor, combine the spinach, basil, ricotta, cream cheese, half-and-half, 1 cup of fontina, 3 tablespoons of parmigiano reggiano, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Process until smooth.

Bake the pasta: Transfer the spinach mixture to the pasta and stir to combine. Then, transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining fontina and parmigiano reggiano. Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the top is golden in spots, about 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

How To Make Baked Penne with Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina

This loaded baked penne is packed with earthy spinach, four types of cheese, and minty basil, for a belly-filling and creamy pasta meal.

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 30 minutes
Total: 40 minutes

Serves:

Ingredients

  • 1lbpenne
  • 10ozfrozen spinach,thawed, squeezed dry
  • ½cupbasil leaves,roughly chopped
  • 1cupwhole milk ricotta cheese
  • 4ozcream cheese
  • 2cupshalf-and-half
  • 6ozfontina,grated, divided
  • 5tbspparmigiano reggiano,finely grated, divided
  • 2garlic cloves,roughly chopped
  • 1tspsalt
  • ¼tspfreshly ground black pepper
  • ¼tspground nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Lightly oil a 9×13-inch ceramic baking dish.

  2. Cook the penne in boiling salted water for about 9 minutes, until al dente. Drain, then place the cooked penne back in the pan and set aside.

  3. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the spinach, basil, ricotta, cream cheese, half-and-half, 1 cup of the fontina, 3 tablespoons of the Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Process until puréed.

  4. Add the spinach mixture to the pasta and stir to combine. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining fontina and Parmigiano Reggiano.

  5. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the pasta is bubbling and the top is golden in spots. Let cool for a few minutes.

  6. Serve warm, and enjoy!

Nutrition

  • Calories: 697.74kcal
  • Fat: 34.30g
  • Saturated Fat: 20.41g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 9.10g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.92g
  • Carbohydrates: 67.87g
  • Fiber: 4.90g
  • Sugar: 7.07g
  • Protein: 30.59g
  • Cholesterol: 109.87mg
  • Sodium: 765.88mg
  • Calcium: 557.74mg
  • Potassium: 744.98mg
  • Iron: 3.75mg
  • Vitamin A: 572.73µg
  • Vitamin C: 18.70mg

Crucial Technique for Perfecting Baked Penne with Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina

When preparing the spinach mixture, ensure to process until it's fully puréed. This will help to evenly distribute the flavors throughout the penne and create a smoother, creamier texture in the final dish. Also, remember to undercook the penne slightly during the initial boiling stage. This is because the pasta will continue to cook in the oven, and you want to avoid it becoming too soft or mushy.

Time-Saving Tips for Preparing This Baked Pasta Recipe

Prep ahead: Prepare the spinach and cheese mixture the day before and store it in the refrigerator. This will save time on the day of cooking.

Use pre-grated cheese: Opt for pre-grated fontina and parmigiano reggiano to skip the time-consuming grating process.

Boil pasta in advance: Cook the penne ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator. This way, you can simply mix it with the spinach mixture and bake when ready to serve.

Double the recipe: Make a larger batch and freeze individual portions for quick and easy meals later on.

One-pot cooking: Consider using a large oven-safe pot for both boiling the pasta and baking the dish, reducing the number of dishes to clean.

Substitute Ingredients For Baked Penne with Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina Recipe

  • penne - Substitute with ziti: Ziti is a similar tube-shaped pasta that can be used as a substitute for penne in this recipe, providing a similar texture and shape.

  • frozen spinach - Substitute with fresh spinach: Fresh spinach can be used as a substitute for frozen spinach, just ensure to cook it down until wilted before adding it to the recipe.

  • ricotta cheese - Substitute with cottage cheese: Cottage cheese can be used as a substitute for ricotta cheese, providing a similar creamy texture and mild flavor.

  • fontina - Substitute with gouda: Gouda cheese can be used as a substitute for fontina, offering a rich and creamy flavor that complements the dish.

  • half-and-half - Substitute with whole milk: Whole milk can be used as a substitute for half-and-half, providing a similar level of creaminess to the dish.

  • parmigiano reggiano - Substitute with pecorino romano: Pecorino Romano cheese can be used as a substitute for parmigiano reggiano, offering a similar salty and nutty flavor to the dish.

  • garlic - Substitute with garlic powder: Garlic powder can be used as a substitute for fresh garlic, providing a convenient alternative with a milder flavor.

Presenting Baked Penne with Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina

  1. Elevate the plating: When presenting the baked penne, focus on creating an elegant and visually appealing presentation. Use a large, white, or neutral-colored plate to showcase the vibrant colors of the dish.

  2. Garnish with fresh basil: Add a pop of color and a burst of freshness to the dish by garnishing with fresh basil leaves. This will not only enhance the visual appeal but also add a delightful aroma to the overall presentation.

  3. Incorporate artistic drizzling: Use a small spoon to delicately drizzle a touch of olive oil over the baked penne. This adds a touch of sophistication and a glossy finish to the dish.

  4. Serve with a side of garlic bread: Accompany the baked penne with a side of warm, freshly baked garlic bread. Arrange the bread slices in an artistic manner on the plate to complement the main dish.

  5. Use high-quality serving utensils: Opt for sleek and modern serving utensils to elevate the dining experience. Consider using polished silver or stainless steel utensils to add a touch of luxury to the presentation.

  6. Create a symmetrical arrangement: Arrange the baked penne in a symmetrical pattern on the plate to create a visually appealing presentation. This attention to detail will impress the culinary professionals with its precision.

  7. Add a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper: Just before serving, add a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper over the dish. This final touch not only enhances the flavor but also adds a visually appealing contrast to the presentation.

  8. Highlight the golden brown crust: Ensure the golden brown crust of the baked penne is prominently displayed. This crispy, caramelized layer adds texture and visual interest to the dish.

  9. Use a minimalistic approach: Embrace a minimalistic plating style to allow the vibrant colors and textures of the dish to take center stage. Less is often more when it comes to presenting a dish of this caliber.

  10. Emphasize the layers: Showcase the layers of the baked penne by serving it in a transparent glass dish. This presentation method allows the intricate layers of the dish to be visible, creating an enticing visual appeal.

Essential Kitchen Tools for Making Baked Pasta Dishes

  • Food processor: A food processor is a versatile kitchen appliance that can be used for pureeing, chopping, and blending ingredients. It's perfect for creating the spinach and ricotta mixture in this recipe.

  • 9 x 13-inch ceramic baking dish: A 9 x 13-inch ceramic baking dish is the ideal size for baking the penne with spinach, ricotta, and fontina. Its depth and size allow for even cooking and easy serving.

Storing and Freezing Leftover Baked Penne

  • Let the baked penne cool completely before storing or freezing. This will prevent condensation from forming and making the dish soggy.

  • To store in the refrigerator, transfer the cooled pasta to an airtight container or cover the baking dish tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. It will keep well in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.

  • For longer storage, you can freeze the baked penne. Portion the cooled pasta into individual servings or freeze the entire dish. Wrap the dish or container tightly with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. Label the package with the date and contents.

  • Frozen baked penne will maintain its best quality for up to 2-3 months. To reheat, thaw the pasta overnight in the refrigerator and then bake in a preheated 350°F oven until heated through, about 20-30 minutes. If baking from frozen, increase the baking time to 45-60 minutes, covering the dish with foil for the first 30 minutes to prevent over-browning.

  • For individual servings, you can reheat the thawed or frozen pasta in the microwave. Place the desired portion on a microwave-safe plate and heat in 1-2 minute intervals, stirring in between, until heated through.

How To Reheat Leftover Baked Penne

  • To reheat leftover baked penne with spinach, ricotta and fontina, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Transfer the pasta to an oven-safe dish and cover it with aluminum foil. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the pasta is heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove the foil for the last 5 minutes of baking to allow the top to crisp up slightly.

  • Another option is to reheat the baked penne in the microwave. Place a single serving of the pasta in a microwave-safe dish and add a splash of milk or water to help keep the pasta moist. Cover the dish with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap, leaving a small vent for steam to escape. Microwave on high power for 1-2 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the pasta is heated through and the cheese is melted.

  • For a stovetop method, place the leftover baked penne in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add a splash of milk or water to the pan to prevent the pasta from drying out. Stir gently and continuously until the pasta is heated through and the cheese is melted, about 5-7 minutes. Be careful not to overheat the pasta, as it may cause the cheese to separate or become grainy.

  • If you have an air fryer, you can use it to reheat the baked penne and achieve a crispy top layer. Preheat the air fryer to 350°F (175°C). Place a single serving of the pasta in an air fryer-safe dish and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the pasta is heated through and the top is slightly crispy.

  • Regardless of the reheating method you choose, be sure to check the internal temperature of the pasta with a food thermometer to ensure it reaches a safe temperature of 165°F (74°C) before serving. If the pasta seems dry after reheating, you can add a small amount of olive oil or butter to help restore moisture and enhance the flavor.

Interesting Fact About Baked Penne with Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina

Fontina and ricotta are both traditional Italian cheeses that add rich and creamy flavors to this baked penne dish.

Is Making Baked Penne at Home Cost-Effective?

This baked penne with spinach, ricotta and fontina recipe is moderately cost-effective for a household. The combination of penne, spinach, and ricotta cheese provides a balance of nutrition and affordability. The use of fontina cheese may increase the cost slightly, but the overall ingredients are reasonably priced. The approximate cost for a household of 4 people is around $20. The rich flavors and satisfying nature of this dish make it a solid choice for a family meal. Verdict: 8.

Is This Baked Pasta Dish Healthy or Unhealthy?

The baked penne with spinach, ricotta, and fontina recipe is a delicious and comforting dish, but it may not be the healthiest option due to its high content of cheese and cream. Here's a breakdown of the recipe's nutritional aspects:

  • Spinach is a nutrient-dense ingredient, providing vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron and calcium.
  • Ricotta and fontina cheeses are sources of protein and calcium, but they are also high in saturated fat and sodium.
  • Cream cheese and half-and-half contribute to the creamy texture but add more saturated fat and calories to the dish.
  • Penne pasta is a source of carbohydrates, but using whole wheat penne would increase the fiber content and provide more nutrients.

While this recipe does include some healthy ingredients like spinach and basil, the overall dish is quite rich and calorie-dense.

To make this recipe healthier, consider the following modifications:

  • Reduce the amount of cheese used, particularly the cream cheese and half-and-half, to lower the saturated fat and calorie content.
  • Substitute half-and-half with low-fat milk or a plant-based alternative to decrease the fat content while maintaining a creamy texture.
  • Use whole wheat penne pasta to increase the fiber content and provide additional nutrients.
  • Increase the amount of spinach or add other vegetables, such as roasted bell peppers or zucchini, to boost the dish's nutrient profile and fiber content.
  • Use low-fat ricotta cheese instead of whole milk ricotta to reduce the saturated fat content.

Editor's Opinion on This Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina Baked Penne

The recipe for baked penne with spinach, ricotta, and fontina is a delightful combination of creamy and savory flavors. The use of ricotta and fontina cheeses creates a rich and indulgent texture, while the addition of spinach adds a pop of freshness. The blend of herbs and spices enhances the overall depth of the dish, making it a comforting and satisfying meal. The baking process allows the flavors to meld together beautifully, resulting in a deliciously golden and bubbly pasta dish. It's a wonderful option for a cozy family dinner or a gathering with friends.

Enhance Your Baked Penne with Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina Recipe with These Unique Side Dishes:

Garlic Bread: A warm and crispy garlic bread would be the perfect accompaniment to this creamy baked penne dish. The garlic flavor will complement the richness of the pasta, and the crunchiness will add a nice texture contrast.
Caesar Salad: A classic Caesar salad with crisp romaine lettuce, tangy Caesar dressing, and crunchy croutons would be a refreshing side to serve alongside the baked penne. The freshness of the salad will balance out the richness of the pasta dish.
Roasted Vegetables: A medley of roasted vegetables such as bell peppers, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes would be a colorful and flavorful side dish to pair with the baked penne. The sweetness of the roasted vegetables will complement the creamy and savory flavors of the pasta.

Alternative Recipes Similar to This Baked Penne Dish

Creamy Chicken Alfredo: This creamy and indulgent pasta dish is perfect for a cozy night in. The combination of tender chicken and rich alfredo sauce will leave you wanting more.
Mango Avocado Salsa: This refreshing and vibrant salsa is the perfect accompaniment to any summer meal. The sweet mango and creamy avocado create a delicious and unique flavor combination.
Butternut Squash Soup: This velvety and comforting soup is the ultimate fall dish. The earthy flavors of butternut squash combined with warm spices will warm you up from the inside out.

Suggested Appetizers and Desserts to Serve with This Baked Pasta Recipe

Appetizers:
Stuffed Mushrooms: Delight your guests with savory stuffed mushrooms filled with a flavorful mixture of herbs, cheese, and breadcrumbs. These bite-sized appetizers are the perfect way to start any meal.
Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil: Serve up a classic Italian appetizer with fresh bruschetta topped with ripe tomatoes, fragrant basil, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. This simple yet elegant dish is sure to impress your guests.
Desserts:
Decadent Chocolate Mousse: Indulge in a rich and creamy chocolate mousse, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. The smooth texture and intense chocolate flavor will satisfy any sweet tooth.
Velvety Lemon Tart: Delight in a tangy and refreshing lemon tart, with a buttery and flaky crust. The zesty lemon filling is perfectly balanced with a hint of sweetness, making it a perfect ending to any meal.

Why trust this Baked Penne with Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina Recipe:

This recipe features penne pasta, spinach, and creamy ricotta and fontina cheeses, creating a rich and flavorful dish. The use of basil adds a fresh and aromatic element, while the addition of nutmeg provides a warm and comforting note. The combination of half-and-half and cream cheese results in a luscious and indulgent texture. With a perfect balance of flavors and a satisfyingly creamy consistency, this recipe is sure to impress and satisfy any discerning palate.

Have you tried this Baked Penne with Spinach, Ricotta and Fontina Recipe? Share your experience and any tweaks you made in the Recipe Sharing forum.
FAQ:
Can I use fresh spinach instead of frozen spinach?
Yes, you can use fresh spinach instead of frozen. Simply blanch the fresh spinach in boiling water for a few minutes, then drain and chop it before adding it to the recipe.
Can I substitute the fontina cheese with another type of cheese?
Absolutely! You can substitute fontina with other melty cheeses like mozzarella, provolone, or Gruyère for a similar creamy and gooey texture.
Can I prepare this dish ahead of time and bake it later?
Yes, you can assemble the dish ahead of time and refrigerate it. When you're ready to bake, simply let it sit at room temperature while the oven preheats, then bake as directed in the recipe.
Can I use skim milk or low-fat ricotta instead of whole milk ricotta?
While whole milk ricotta adds richness to the dish, you can use skim milk or low-fat ricotta if you prefer. Just be aware that the texture and creaminess may vary slightly.
Can I freeze the baked penne with spinach, ricotta, and fontina?
Yes, you can freeze the baked penne. Once baked, let it cool completely, then cover it tightly with foil and freeze. When ready to eat, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in the oven until warmed through.

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