Creamy mac n cheese was one of my favorite meals as a kid, but now that I’m all grown up, I’m so much more careful about being healthy and nourishing my body with the best foods. I have to admit that I do cave into my cravings sometimes — as you can see by the amount of dessert recipes on the blog — and I do make creamy cheesy pasta bakes from time to time, but when I’m dying for pasta but want it to be nourishing, I make a lighter version instead.
This pasta bake combines mozzarella and parmesan cheese with whole wheat pasta, fresh cherry tomatoes and a spinach pesto, bringing you a hefty dose of vitamins. It’s the perfect dinner for those nights when you’re craving something more hearty, but nevertheless full of vegetables.
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- 300g whole wheat or regular penne
- 100g fresh spinach leaves
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ cup pine nuts
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ⅛ cup cold water
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 100g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 125g mozzarella, chopped into chunks
- More grated parmesan cheese for topping
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil with a pinch of salt and olive oil. Add the penne and cook according to package instructions, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the pasta when ready and put the pasta back into the pot.
- Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F and oil a round Pyrex dish.
- In a food processor, combine the fresh spinach leaves, garlic cloves, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and cold water. Mix until all the ingredients and perfectly blended. Add the olive oil and blend until you reach a creamy consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the spinach pesto and the halved cherry tomatoes to the pot with the pasta and mix to coat each penne.
- Put all the pasta into the Pyrex dish. Top the pasta with the mozzarella chunks and sprinkle some parmesan cheese over the top.
- Bake for 20 minutes until the mozzarella is fully melted. Serve warm.