This spinach and ricotta pasta is an easy, delicious comfort food filled with three kinds of cheese. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a satisfying vegetarian or meatless meal. My whole family loves the flavour and as the main cook, I also love that it’s easy to prepare and that I can make it ahead to store in the fridge or freezer for another night.
Imagine the flavor of lasagna with half the workload, that’s what this baked spinach and ricotta pasta is like. It’s also very similar to Stuffed Manicotti, but without the fuss of trying to stuff those tubes.
Pasta: I like using regular short pasta like rigatoni, bowties, fusilli, penne, ziti or rotini. When I can find it, I also like more fancy shapes like medium shells, radiatori, cavatappi or campanelle, I like that they have a flatter surface to better hold the sauce and ricotta mixture. Sometimes, if I feel like we’ve been missing out, I’ll use whole grain pasta (being sure to add just a little more liquid to my sauces).
Cheese: As for the cheese, our favourite combo is mozzarella for it’s melty, gooey factor, Parmesan for it’s sharp salty flavour and ricotta for the way it coats the pasta. Sometimes I may use a little cheddar with the mozza, but I never switch out ricotta with cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is too liquidy.
Ricotta (our favourite is Chaeban Artisan Ricotta) melts just a little when baked and does not release moisture, so it won’t make the pasta soggy or cause pools of liquid in the bottom of the pan. It also has a very slight sweet flavour which goes perfectly with the tomatoes in marinara sauce. A good ricotta, like Chaeban’s has small curds but they’re never grainy.
And yes, this post is sponsored by Chaeban Artisan, but if I didn’t love their cheese, I wouldn’t use it or write about it. I love partnering with brands that produce great quality products. And I know Joseph and the team at his shop a few blocks from my house are committed to sourcing the best local ingredients and making premium products.
Pasta Sauce: I either use fresh roasted tomatoes to make a sauce or I use this marinara sauce or this meat sauce for this dish. But you can use whatever canned pasta sauce you like best. Remember to taste it and adjust the seasoning to your liking every time.
Dark Leafy Greens: You know I like including dark leafy greens for added nutrition whenever I can. They’re perfect for this dish. When you chop them small enough, no one really minds them and you get all their benefits.
If you don’t have spinach, try kale, swiss chard, bok choy, beet greens, broccoli or collard greens. Use fresh or frozen.
Can this casserole be made ahead?
Yes! You can assemble this casserole 2-3 days before you want to serve it. Assemble as instructed, then cover and refrigerate. Take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before baking and follow baking instructions. It may take 5-10 minutes longer.
Can you freeze Spinach and Ricotta Pasta?
Yes! This casserole freezes beautifully either before or after baking. Follow these instructions for freezing:
Freeze Before Baking:
Assemble the casserole as instructed. Instead of baking, let it cool completely (if your sauce and pasta are still warm) then seal tightly with plastic wrap. Cover with foil or another layer of plastic (or lid of container if available). Include instructions and freeze. Best if used within 3-6 months.
To Prepare: Thaw 1-2 days before baking in fridge. Remove all wrapping, cover with foil and cook in a pre-heated oven at 350°F (180°C) for 50 minutes, uncover and cook another 5 to 10 minutes. Or bake direct from frozen for 1 3/4 – 2 hours or until heated through and cheese is bubbly and turning golden.
Freeze After Baking:
For quick and easy dinner or lunches, divide fully baked and cooled pasta into convenient serving size and freeze in an airtight container.
To Prepare: Thaw a day ahead in the refrigerator and reheat gently in the microwave. Try 75% power for 5-8 minutes.
How can I add more protein to this dish?
Did you know that ricotta cheese is a low calorie, low fat cheese that offers more protein than most other cheese varieties? You get about 11grams of protein per 100grams of ricotta. That’s pretty awesome for cheese. So even without adding anything else, you’re getting protein from the cheese, pasta (use whole wheat pasta for even more protein) and dark leafy greens.
For most families that eat a variety of protein sources throughout the day – a dish like this will provide sufficient protein for a typical day. No need to worry!
That said, if you want to add more protein:
- add cooked rotisserie or leftover chicken or turkey
- add browned ground beef, chicken, turkey or pork
- add cooked sausage
- add beans, tofu or TVP to your tomato sauce
- add a cup of mashed, white kidney beans to the cheese mix along with a little more pasta water Y
What to Serve with Spinach and Ricotta Pasta?
Honestly, sometimes all I have the energy for is the main dish – no salad, no veggies, no sides at all. Ever have those nights? With this dish, that’s totally fine, it’s definitely enough.
When I have the time and energy or company’s coming, I’ll make a salad, some veggies or maybe some fresh bread to go with our baked pasta. Here are some of my favourites to go with pasta.
- Kale and Apple Salad
- Fresh Citrus Salad with orange honey vinaigrette
- Spinach and Mandarin Salad
- Caesar Salad
Recipe for Baked Spinach and Ricotta Pasta
Baked Spinach and Ricotta Pasta
- 12 oz short pasta (rigatoni, macaroni, bowties, fusilli, penne, ziti, etc.)
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese divided
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese divided
- 2 tsp Italian Seasoning
- 1 tsp salt (if there's none in your Italian seasoning)
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 2 cups chopped fresh or frozen spinach well drained*
- 5 cups pasta sauce or marinara sauce
- 2 Tbsp fresh parsley or basil to garnish
- Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and return to boil. Cook for 6-7 minutes or until slightly less done than al dente (pasta will cook more in the oven). Before draining, reserve 1 cup of pasta water and set aside. Drain pasta and rinse with cold water.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In large bowl, mix ricotta, half the mozzarella, half the Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, salt, nutmeg and spinach.
- Add pasta to cheese mix and stir well. Add as much reserved pasta water as needed to have a silky smooth sauce. You don't want it runny, but your pasta shouldn't be sticky and dry.
- Cover bottom of 9×13 casserole dish with half of pasta sauce.
- Place pasta mixed with ricotta on top of sauce. Pour remainder of sauce on top.
- Sprinkle top with remainder of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes until cheese bubbles and turns brown.
- To Freeze: Do not bake. Cool assembled dish completely. Cover with plastic wrap and aluminum foil or lid. Label with cooking instructions.
- To Cook from Frozen: Thaw for 24 hours in fridge. Remove all wrapping, cover with foil and cook at 350°F for 50 minutes, uncover and cook another 5 to 10 minutes. Or bake direct from frozen for 1 3/4 – 2 hours or until heated through and cheese is bubbly and turning golden.
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
What is Ricotta?
Ricotta is a type of fresh, unripened cheese. It is creamy white with a spreadable texture and tiny lumps or curds. These curds are a good thing! They are the milk proteins that have clumped together and are a classic feature of traditional ricotta.
It’s a low calorie, low fat cheese that offers more protein than most other cheeses. Consider it between cream cheese and cottage cheese. Not as dense, tangy or high fat as cream cheese but creamier with much smaller curds, more flavour and less salt than cottage cheese.
What else can I make with Ricotta?
Opened ricotta will last in the fridge about 7-10 days. That should give you a chance to try some of these other tasty recipes:
Ricotta Herb Spread (Like Homemade Boursin)
Stinging Nettle Stuffed Manicotti – for the truly adventurous
If you’re still having difficulty using up your ricotta, freeze it.
Freeze Ricotta: Place in airtight container or freezer bag and use within 3 months. It will lose some flavour and become a little more crumbly, but it will work in casseroles, sauces or pasta dishes like this one.
This recipe was written in paid partnership with Chaeban Artisan. As always, opinions are my own and a sincere reflection of life in my home.
Ready to make this pasta bake? Let me know how it goes in the comments below or on Instagram @GetGettyS or on Facebook @GettyStewart.HomeEconomist.
Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist, speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.