This is a great "base" recipe. As you can see, the recipe is simple, and there are not many ingredients. That leaves lots of room for creativity. For example, I love garlic, so I like to add more than the recipe originally called for (1 clove). If I plan ahead, I'll add a whole head of roasted garlic to the sauce. Of course, you can add any vegetable to the bake. Sauteed mushrooms, squash, roasted carrots, string beans or asparagus would all be lovely in this dish. I have also added canned garbanzo beans or canned cannellini beans. Whatever you have sitting around the house can be added in.
It can be made way ahead of time. Refrigerate is using within 24 hours, otherwise freeze for up to 3 months.
(recipe adapted from Shape Magazine)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced (I like using 3-4 cloves)
4 c. baby spinach
3 c. diced tomato, divided
1 T. dried oregano (or any herb)
Pinch coarse salt
3⁄4 c. shredded low- fat cheddar cheese, divided
optional: pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente, about 12 minutes. Rinse penne under cold water and drain; set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet over medium. Add garlic and stir until fragrant. Add spinach and 2 cups of tomato; cook for 4 minutes, until spinach wilts.
In a medium bowl, combine remaining 1 cup of tomato, herbs, salt and red pepper flakes. Transfer the cooked tomato mixture to the bowl and stir well. Add pasta to tomato mixture and combine thoroughly.
Stir in 1∕2 cup of the cheese.
Grease bottom of baking dish with remaining 1 teaspoon oil. Pour tomato pasta mixture into dish.
Bake uncovered for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining 1∕4 cup cheese. Bake until cheese melts, about 4 more minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.