Cheesy pasta is always a winner - I could quite happily eat pasta simply coated with a bit of butter and some grated cheese every single day of the year. I do usually try to get a bit of extra nutrition into my cooking (pasta and cheese does not a balanced diet make), but I don't like to detract from the enjoyment of having cheesy pasta for dinner. This creamy bean and spinach pasta bake is the perfect solution - it still feels indulgent, like a real treat, but there's actually a lot of goodness hidden inside too!
The creamy sauce is really quick and easy to whizz up - as usual, I tried to avoid creating any unnecessary cooking steps, so the sauce doesn't need any kind of pre-cooking. Just add a big handful of fresh spinach, a leek, ricotta cheese, fresh parsley and garlic to a food processor, and get your blend on.
There's also one other secret ingredient that adds heaps of protein to this pasta bake - beans! One batch contains two whole tins of beans. I used cannellini beans and haricot beans, but any kind of tinned white bean (butter beans, for example) will work just fine. You could even use non-white beans, but the sauce will end up a bit less pretty!
The end result is a thick and creamy sauce - perfectly irresistible, but full of goodness.
Just mix the cooked pasta with the creamy spinach sauce, and pop it in a baking dish.
I also added some tomato sauce, and plenty more cheese on top (obviously). It's like pizza on a pasta bake - it doesn't get much more tempting than this.
I made a pretty big batch of this creamy bean and spinach pasta bake, because I knew I would love it (how could a pizza-topped creamy pasta bake ever be bad?!). The recipe will serve about 6 people. But if there's only one or two of you, and you don't fancy eating the same meal several days in a row, it will freeze nicely too! Just cut it into portions, freeze, then reheat in the microwave or oven.
Add a couple of slices of garlic bread and some salad, and this creamy bean and spinach pasta bake makes an amazing people-pleasing dinner!
Creamy bean and spinach pasta bake
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- 500 g (~ 17 ½ oz) pasta (I used spirali)
- 1 small leek, roughly chopped
- 1 large handful fresh spinach
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 400 g tin cannellini beans, drained (240g, or ~ 1 ¼ cups, when drained)
- 400 g tin haricot beans, drained (240g, or ~ 1 ¼ cups, when drained)
- Few sprigs fresh parsley
- 250 g (~ 1 cup) ricotta cheese
- Black pepper
- 200 g (~ ¾ cup) passata or tomato sauce
- ½ ball fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into chunks
- 50 g cheddar cheese, grated (~ ½ cup when grated)
- Cook the pasta in plenty of water until cooked al dente, then drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, add the leek to a food processor, along with the spinach and garlic. Blitz until well chopped. Add the two tins of beans and the fresh parsley, and blitz again thoroughly. Finally add the ricotta and a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and blitz one last time.
- Add the sauce to the cooked pasta, and mix to combine. You can add a dash of water or vegetable stock to thin it out a little, if needed.
- Add the pasta to a large baking dish, and pour over the passata or tomato sauce. Top with some fresh mozzarella and grated cheddar, and bake at 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F) for around 30 minutes, or until the cheese has crisped up to your liking.
Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on your exact ingredients. Please calculate your own nutritional values if you require accuracy for health reasons.
Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose. Information above is for ⅙ of the recipe.