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Ever have a simple recipe that was so good you could serve it for special occasions? This is one of those recipes. I love the flavor of this traditional penne casserole with the added twist of fresh spinach baked right in. The spinach adds a dimension and freshness that compliments the pasta, cheese and sauce and is truly delicious.
To make my favorite Spinach and Cheese Penne Casserole I headed to Kroger to get the ingredients. I selected Barilla® Classic Blue Box Penne because it is an authentic Italian brand that I trust as a quality ingredient to make our special "Wonderful Your Way" "date night in" meal spectacular.
This may make me sound like some kind of crazy grocery store groupee, but I really, really love my local Kroger store. Even though it is a chain, it feels like a small town store. Everyone (and I mean this literally) is so friendly. We have lived in our small town for about a year and I feel like I know most of the employees at Kroger. My favorite cashier is the sweetest lady, Barbara, who dotes on my children every time we see her. The other day my five year old told me he wants to work at Kroger when he is older so he can see me all the time. Guess that means I spend a little too much time at the store. (LOL)
Making time for date nights is important in a relationship, but let's face it, sometimes it is easier said than done. With so much going on in our busy lives (like caring for four children including a newborn), making plans and hiring a sitter can sometimes seem a bit overwhelming.
With a few simple tips, you can still have a date night "in", saving yourself a lot of stress and money in the process.
A simple, romantic date night table setting using things I already had. I coordinated some red patterned paper place mats with a black tablecloth for a festive Valentine's Day look. I served Spinach and Cheese Penne Casserole with a basic lettuce, tomato, and basil salad. You can pair with a favorite wine or sparkling juice (pictured: sparkling cherry juice) and an easy homemade or store bought dessert.
For dessert, I made this easy slow cooker chocolate cake a few days before and froze a few slices to keep them fresh. I then cubed the cake and layered it with homemade whipped cream and fresh berries in some fancy dessert glasses. So simple and yet sophisticated.
6 Easy Tips for a Fabulous Date Night In:
As you can see this recipe makes a lot of food. Awesome if you have a big family like we do. If you don't you can halve it. (Instructions at the bottom of the recipe.) Leftovers are great too! One of my favorite things about this recipe is that you can make it earlier in the day or even the day before and refrigerate to bake later. If you want to get a little fancy, garnish with some fresh basil leaves after baking.
Spinach and Cheese Penne Casserole
16 oz. Barilla Classic Blue Box Penne
2 (15 oz.) containers ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 (24 oz) jars Barilla pasta sauce
5 oz. package fresh Spinach
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and set aside.
2. Combine the egg, ricotta cheese, and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
3. Spread about 1 1/2 cups pasta sauce in a greased 9 X 13 X 3 pan or a really big casserole dish. (A 9 X 13 X 2 will work, but it will be up to the top of the pan.)
4. Top with a third of the cooked pasta, half of the ricotta mixture, half of the spinach, 1 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese, 1 T. Parmesan cheese, and 1 1/2 cups pasta sauce.
5. Repeat layers of pasta, ricotta mixture, spinach and mozzarella cheese.
6. Sprinkle with 2 T. Parmesan cheese.
7. Then top with remaining pasta, sauce, mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.
8. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees F. for 45-50 minutes or until heated through. (Serves 12)
You can easily halve this recipe and bake it in a 9 X 9 baking pan. If you cut the recipe in half, still use one egg as a binding agent in the ricotta mixture, but halve all other ingredients.
Need some more recipe inspiration? Head to Barilla for more "Wonderful Your Way" recipe ideas. .
Welcome to Home Ec @ Home
Hi, I'm Faith, a former Family and Consumer Science (Home Economics) Teacher turned work at home Mom, bringing you family friendly, homemade recipes and homemaking tips to simplify your life. Join me on my homemaking and mothering journey.
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