Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Words & Brush Recipe Corner: Winter Warming Spinach & Feta Pasta Bake

 Winter Warming Spinach & Feta Pasta Bake

By Lisa Starr,  Meatland 12/08/21


Let's celebrate this step in the right direction by serving up my deliciously dairy, amazingly speedy Spinach & Feta Pasta Bake.Even tastier I believe than spinach lasagna - coating the pasta in the creamy tomato sauce makes all the difference - it's also assembled in a fraction of the time.It's just the weather for carbo-loading and I couldn't think of a more appetizing place to start. 


400 grams uncooked short pasta like tubes, macaroni or fusilli 250 grams cottage cheese (I choose 9%)1 - 2 cups grated yellow/mozzarella cheese  300 grams feta/bulgarit, crumbled1 teaspoon crushed garlic1 egg1 bag frozen spinach, thawed and well drained*Salt and coarse, black pepper to taste3 - 4 cups marinara sauce (approximately)1 cup 15% cream or sour cream (notes)Grated yellow cheese/mozzarella to top before baking * Frozen spinach must be well-drained and excess water pressed out or it will make your pasta bake watery. I prefer to use a large bag of fresh, baby spinach which I simply roughly chop and add to the cheeses. No need to precook it. 


1: Boil pasta in salted water, take off heat 3 minutes before it's ready so that it's still firm, set aside a cupful of the cooking water to mix with cheeses, and then drain pasta well. 

2: Mix cottage cheese, feta/bulgarit cheese, yellow cheese, egg, garlic and seasoning together, stir in spinach, and add a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to emulsify and make it creamy.

3: Combine marinara sauce - see notes regarding homemade or store-bought - with the cream. Cream is optional but I love how it turns the marinara into a rose sauce. 

4: Mix the drained pasta into the creamy tomato sauce, spoon a layer of the sauce-covered pasta into a medium-sized baking dish, and top with a layer of cheese mixture. Repeat with remaining pasta and cheese, making sure to end with a tomato pasta layer on top.  

5: Generously scatter over yellow cheese/mozzarella to create a lovely cheesy topping, cover loosely with foil and bake for 25 minutes at 180 C, then remove foil and bake a further 10 - 15 minutes till cheese is golden. COOK'S NOTES: It's perfectly fine to use a ready-made pasta sauce here to save time but make sure it's a good quality sauce. I love Paesana at Meatland. For a homemade sauce, cut an onion in half at the root, and simmer the whole onion halves with 800 grams canned tomato, crushed garlic, 1 cup water, 2 teaspoons oregano, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt, coarse black pepper, and sugar to taste. Cook till well-thickened and flavorful then remove soft onion - which I slice and use as a topping on bread or pizza - and your sauce is ready to go. Adding cream to the marinara sauce is optional but it does take away the acidity of a premade sauce and rounds out the flavors beautifully. Dish may be frozen before baking then thawed and baked till golden.


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