Meatless Monday: Spinach and Mushroom Pasta Bake

June 4, 2012
Spinach and mushroom is a comforting baked pasta bake that the whole family will love.  This recipe uses whole grain to make this dish to lean towards the healthier side.  Instead of using canned condensed soup, the pasta and vegetables are tossed in a creamy homemade bechamel sauce.  The top of the dish is covered with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese for extra cheesy goodness.  Serve your spinach and mushroom pasta bake with a side of really good garlic bread.
1 lb. Whole Grain Rotini
4 Cups Milk (I use 2% Milk, but you can use whole milk too)
8 Tbsp Unsalted Butter (1 Stick)
½ Cup All-Purpose Flour
4 Cloves Garlic
2 Tsp Crushed Red Peppers (more or less per your liking)
1 Medium White Onion, medium diced
1 Cup Diced Portobello Mushrooms
4 Cups Baby Spinach
1 Cup Tomatoes, medium diced
1 Tsp Oregano
2 Tsp Freshly Chopped Parsley (or 1 Tsp dried)
1 ½ Cups Halved Cherry Tomatoes
3 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Put a pot of water to boil. Once boiling, salt the water and add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente. Set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, pour the milk in a microwave safe bowl and pop in the microwave for about 1 minute. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in another saucepot, melt the butter over low heat. Add in the garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook for a minute or so. Slowly add in the flour while whisking to ensure that there are no lumps. Cook for about 1-2 minutes.
Gradually add the milk and keep whisking because the mixture will thicken quickly until all the milk is added. Keep whisking until the flour/butter is mixed completely into the milk and there are no lumps. Add in the 2 ½ tsp of salt, 1 tsp of ground black pepper, oregano, parsley, and the cream cheese. Cook over medium heat until the mixture has thickened.
While the sauce is thickening, sauté the onions and mushrooms over medium heat with a little olive oil for about 3-4 minutes. Add the spinach to the pan and season with ½ tsp salt and a pinch black pepper. Continue to cook until the spinach has wilted. Add in the chopped tomatoes and cook for another minute.
Add in the sautéed vegetables into the cream and stir. Add in the pasta and stir until the pasta is evenly coated. Pour into a large greased baking pan, cover with foil and cook for 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and top with the mozzarella cheese and cherry tomatoes.

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