Baked Pasta with Ricotta & Spinach

This was enjoyed by the pickiest eater in the house, my 6-year-old daughter.  In fact, she gave it an A+.  Out of the mouths of babes...or should I say IN them...
Don't be afraid to heavily season this dish as it can be on the bland side otherwise.  As always, don't be afraid to substitute if you don't have the exact ingredients I used.

1 box pasta, your choice
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bag frozen spinach, cooked and squeezed dry
1/4 c flour
1 1/2 c milk
2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 c ricotta cheese
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
crushed red pepper to taste, depending on how much heat you want
a dash of nutmeg
1 c seasoned panko breadcrumbs

Cook pasta, drain, set aside.

Heat butter over med-high heat.  Saute onion until just brown.  Add garlic, cook one minute more.  Reduce heat to med-low, add the greens.  Let cook for 5 or so minutes.

Sprinkle the greens with the flour.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly (it will burn and stick otherwise).  Gradually add the milk, stirring well.  Cook 5 minutes, stirring often, until thickened and smooth.

Remove from heat, stir in the pasta, cheddar, ricotta, sugar, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, nutmeg, garlic powder and cumin.  Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick spray.  Spoon into dish.  Sprinkle top with the panko breadcrumbs, then gently spray the breadcrumb topping with nonstick spray (so it will crisp while baking).

Bake 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees, or until it is heated through and the top is browned.  I put mine under the broiler for the last few minutes to really make the breadcrumbs crispy.


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