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Thursday, 20 February 2014

Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Bake

This evening I opened the fridge to look for something to make for dinner. In the fridge there was ricotta and chicken and that's about it (someone needs to go shopping!). So I racked my brain for something to cook. Hmmm ... In any Italian kitchen the staple ingredients that will always be in the cupboard are: pasta, frozen spinach, tomato sauce, more pasta and ricotta. With these ingredients I decide to make a pasta bake with spinach, ricotta, chicken and tomato sauce. Pasta bakes are my life saver as there is always pasta in the cupboard (where I'm living there is a whole cupboard dedicated to pasta in every shape and size) and you can literally put anything in them. 

Below is a 'photo' recipe, showing you how I made this delicious pasta bake. It makes 6 generous portions. 

Firstly, prepare the spinach and ricotta sauce. Bring water to the boil and add either fresh of frozen spinach. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Drain and then squeeze out all the excess water with your hands. In a large bowl put the spinach,  500g ricotta, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 egg, salt, and pepper. Mix until combined. Set aside. 

Take 2/3 large chicken breasts and cut it into thin slices. In a deep sided saucepan, add water so it is 3/4 full
, the juice of one lemon and a pinch of salt and then bring the water to the boil. Add the chicken to it and cook for about 7-10 minutes. This is called poaching and it is a healthy way to cook chicken as it doesn't use oil and keeps it moist. Check the chicken as it is cooking and turn off the heat when the chicken is just about cooked and drain. Add to bowl with ricotta and spinach.
3) Preheat oven to C180. Get out a large oven proof dish. 

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook 500g pasta shells ( I suggest but any pasta works) until it is aldente - an Italian word meaning to cook the pasta until it is slightly crisp still as it will cook some more when it is put in the oven, therefore cook the pasta for a couple minutes less then the packet says. While the pasta is cooking take about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and add it to the bowl with spinach and ricotta. This should water down the sauce as it will dry out while it is cooking. 

Drain pasta and add the bowl with other ingredients. Mix until it is well combined. Pour into oven proof dish and pack down. 

Pour 300ml tinned tomato sauce over the top and using a spoon spread out evenly. 

Cook in a preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes until it is heated through and the top is crunchy. 

8) Finally enjoy ! 

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