Spinach & Artichoke Pasta Bake

It’s been a while. Before I start, I want to point out that there’s the slightly new & more streamlined format for The Picky Gourmet posts. It’s gonna go like: short introduction to quell the general online jokes about bloggers talking too much when people just want the food (ha), the coveted recipe itself, followed by any suggestions or possible substitutions, & finally all the process photos are at the end for the visual learners.

OK, the elephant in the room here is that my big return to blog recipes happens to be right when grocery stores are the last place most people want to be. I hope everyone out there is staying safe, washing hands & keeping calm during this time while we are all trying to deal with this virus.

The good news is, this recipe happens to use a lot of ingredients you might already have on hand. Well, as long as you didn’t blow your whole grocery budget on toilet paper. Surprisingly, for a dish that is full of fresh, herbaceous flavor, the only things you actually need from produce are an onion & garlic (which I feel like most people have laying around anyway). Everything else is a pantry pull!

So let’s fire up the oven, hunker down with a glass of wine & make a…

Spinach & Artichoke Pasta Bake

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/2 yellow or white onion, diced
  • 16 oz whole grain rotini pasta
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz frozen spinach, thawed & drained of excess moisture
  • 6 oz jarred artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Peel off the “paper” of the garlic, chop off the top & place it on a piece of tin foil. Drizzle the garlic with olive oil & close the foil around it. Roast for 45-50 minutes. Let it cool & squeeze the roasted garlic into a small bowl & mash with a fork. (Here is a quick little video from The Kitchn if you have never done this before & are unsure).
  2. Meanwhile, on the stovetop, cook the diced onion in a Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat, about 5-7 minutes until they become translucent & develop a golden brown color. Set aside to cool.
  3. At the same time, you can also cook your pasta on the stovetop as well. Cook about 1 minute less than package instructions. Once it’s done, drain the water & season the pasta with a touch of olive oil, half of the dried basil & oregano (1/2 Tbsp of each) & a pinch of salt & pepper.
  4. Bring the oven down to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, cooked onions & spinach. Add in the roasted garlic, chopped artichoke hearts, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, half of the parmesan & pecorino cheeses (1/4 cup each), with the crushed red pepper, the rest of the dried basil & oregano, & a pinch of salt & pepper.
  5. Gently fold the pasta into the ricotta cheese mixture until well incorporated. Transfer to a 9×13 baking dish & top with the mozzarella cheese & the remaining parmesan & pecorino.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown & bubbly. A minute under the broiler can help develop color at the end, but keep an eye on it.

Suggestions & Substitutions: obviously any pasta can be used here, as long as it isn’t a long noodle like spaghetti. Ziti, penne, cavatappi, anything like that would be great. I like using the whole grain here, because there’s so much flavor & cheese, why not sneak in a little extra fiber in there? Since this is a vegetarian recipe, protein infused pasta would be another great choice.

The key with these specific pantry ingredients is taking away the excess moisture. Obviously, frozen spinach needs to be thawed & have all that water squeezed out of it. I used the sun-dried tomatoes that come in a packet, but if you already have the jarred/oil-packed kind, just dab them with a paper towel. The tomatoes & artichoke hearts (which I always buy in a jar) don’t have to be bone dry, but just enough to avoid too much oil in the mixture.

While this makes a great meatless Monday or vegetarian dinner, if you want some added protein, throw some cubed rotisserie chicken in there or even some crumbled sausage. And if you want to cut back on the cheese, you could skip the top layer of mozzarella. (I mean, I wouldn’t, but no judgement.)

And a final note on the cheese. I personally love the funky, strong flavor that pecorino adds to the dish. If you don’t have pecorino cheese or don’t feel like spending the extra money, you can use all parmesan. I just beg you to grate it yourself instead of using the green tube can.

And that’s that! Stay healthy, stay safe & keep cooking.






Ravioli Zucchini Casserole

I really had a hard time naming this one. I toyed with calling it shortcut lasagna, or baked ravioli, but I settled on dubbing it a casserole. Whatever it is, it’s a fun and easy dinner great for a weeknight or to feed a family, that sneaks in some veggies amongst all that delicious sauce and cheese.

This recipe is also versatile. If you have read my other posts, I love giving people options and shortcuts, because everyone is different. Different schedules, different pantries, different tastes. Since I used to be an unbelievably picky eater, I think it’s important to let people have some room to play around.

Yields 6-8 servings

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (+extra, optional*)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 24 oz marinara sauce
  • approx 20 oz package ravioli
  • 2 large zucchini, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella
  • fresh basil
  1. Boil water in a medium to large pot.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute until fragrant. Add chopped onion and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until translucent.
  3. Pour marinara sauce over the onions, reduce heat to low and stir until combined. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and remove from heat to cool.
  4. When the water is boiling, add the ravioli and cook about 1-2 minutes less than package directions for an al dente texture. In the last 3 minutes of the pasta cooking, add the sliced zucchini. Drain and let cool. (*After draining, tossing with a little olive oil can help prevent sticking)
  5. While the sauce and pasta cool, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray
  6. Spread 1 cup of the sauce evenly over the bottom of the pan and sprinkle on half of the Parmesan cheese. Arrange half the ravioli evenly in one layer over the sauce and sprinkle on half the mozzarella cheese. Arrange all the zucchini slices, evenly in one layer. Take some basil leaves and spread them out on top of the zucchini, as much or as little as you like.
  7. Use the rest of the ravioli to create a layer over the zucchini. Pour the remaining sauce over the whole dish and sprinkle with the rest of the mozzarella and Parmesan.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes, until cheese is melted and let rest for at least 2 minutes prior to serving. Garnish with fresh basil.

Here’s a visual on how to arrange the layers

Ravioli bakes are not a new thing, a lot of people have done it before with just sauce, pasta, cheese, sauce, pasta, cheese. It’s a quick meal that pleases most. You can use cheese or meat ravioli, whatever your preference.

By adding a whole chopped onion to my sauce, it gives it more of a thick texture and a noticeable crunch. You could alway substitute with finely chopped bell peppers or mushrooms to get that extra vegetable element. If you don’t have time for prep, cheat and get a super chunky jarred pasta sauce.

I love zucchini and think it’s really what makes this dish special, but it would completely work without it. To slice it you either need a mandolin or a really sharp knife and patience. I don’t have a mandolin, so start by cutting the two ends off, cutting the zucchini in half, and then very carefully slicing it into thin strips. By halving the zucchini it makes it easier to slice by hand and also easier to get through when you are scooping out portions of the finished dish. Worst case, you could slice it into coins like you would a cucumber, it will just take longer to layer and you won’t get total coverage like you would with retangular pieces.

This is not what I would call a totally healthy dish, but if you have kids, it’s an easy way to sneak in some fresh vegetables. You can also easily feed 6 to 8 people with this dish by serving it up with a simple salad and maybe some garlic bread. Since its just my husband and I, we portion it out and save what we don’t eat for leftovers. It holds up very well in the fridge.

Overall this requires a little more time and a little more mess than the standard ravioli bake, but it’s those extra elements that really make this more than just a big block of sauce and cheese. Adding in just a couple vegetables and fresh basil takes it to the next level of texture and taste. It’s also fun to dig in and see that bright green layer of zucchini right in the middle. Try it out! I promise it’s easy and everyone will end up with a clean plate.