Hello and welcome to Djalali Cooks! I spent a little time watching the local public television channel when we were on Tybee Island, and I came across My Greek Table, a show hosted by Diane Kochilas from Maryland public Broadcasting. I really enjoyed her cooking style; she made classic Greek dishes look simple and amazing. In one of the episodes I saw, she did a Spanakopita Mac and Cheese. Well, I had to try this. Today’s recipe is a little different, it’s a recipe I found on the NY Times Cooking site, but the idea is the same. Today we have a Spanakopita Pasta Bake.
Spanakopita Pasta Bake
This recipe is super easy and so satisfying! There is a ton of flavor from the variety of greens and fresh herbs. And of course, the cheese and creamy sauce! The Rigatoni noodles are perfectly al dente and the pasta that pokes out of the top gets crispy and delicious.
To begin, get the oven preheating to 450 degrees and get a large pot of salted water to boil. Then, we will salt and pepper the chopped greens and herbs and let them naturally wilt a bit. This recipe calls for a total of 8 cups of greens. Four cups arugula and 4 cups of a combination of two leafy greens. If you plan to use chard or regular kale, you will need to remove the tough stems. You can mix whichever two types you like. I have: baby spinach, baby kale and arugula. I am using dill and parsley, but you can either/or, if you like.
Just massage the chopped greens, fresh herbs and the green parts of the scallions with salt in the same baking dish you plan to bake in. Set the greens aside. Then measure out the cheeses and cube up the cream cheese. Once the water is boiling, cook the pasta for 10 minutes. Before draining the noodles, scoop out 1 cup of the pasta water and reserve for the sauce. Since we want the pasta a little less than al dente done, you want to see a definable opaque ring around the center of the Rigatoni.
Return the pasta pot to the stove and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sliced white parts of the scallions and the sliced garlic with a pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions and garlic soften. Then add the cubed cream cheese and pasta water and stir until smooth.
Then let’s add the wilted greens and herb mixture. Then add half the feta and half the mozzarella. Stir to coat the greens and melt the cheese.
Then add the pasta and stir well to thoroughly coat the pasta.
Pour the pasta, greens and cheese mixture in to the baking dish and top with the remaining mozzarella and feta.
Pop it in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is browning.
While this isn’t actual Spanakopita, with it’s flaky pastry layers; the flavors are there. And they work perfectly with pasta. Pasta bakes are easy weeknight meals and this Spanakopita Pasta Bake is refreshing change from tomato-based versions, or straight-up Mac and Cheese.
When I make this again, I think I will add a layer of bread crumbs to the top before baking. Just to get a little more crispy crunch. Even without the breadcrumb topping, this recipe is a keeper! Anytime feta is involved, I’m all in. This is a great vegetarian dish, loaded with greens. You could swap in gluten free or whole grain pasta, if you like.
I love Mediterranean food and Greek cuisine is one of my favorites. My paternal grandmother was Greek, but she never made Greek food. Instead, she always made Mexican dishes, like Tamales for holidays . I suspect this was because she married my grandfather, who was Mexican. But I will never know if she knew any Greek dishes, or if her immigrant parents ever cooked Greek food when she was a girl. Maybe she would have enjoyed watching Diane Kochilas and My Greek Table as much as I do. I haven’t made many Greek dishes, and it’s something I plan to explore here on the blog.
I am so happy you spent some of your Monday with me! Thank you so much for stopping by today. Give me a follow on Pinterest and Instagram, pin and share the recipes! Let me know if you make this dish, and what you think! Take care everyone, be well. xo Kelly
Spanakopita Pasta Bake
Rigatoni makes this pasta bake substantial; it's rich with a creamy sauce; it's fresh and bright with the leafy greens and fresh herbs; and beautifully sharp thanks to the feta.
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 4 cups Spinach, Swiss chard or other mild greens (tough stems removed), chopped
- 4 cups Arugula, chopped
- 1 cup Fresh dill and/or Parsley Leaves and Stems, chopped
- 6 Scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, whites and dark green parts separated
- 1 lb. Rigatoni or Fusilli
- 2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
- 4 Garlic Cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 8 oz. Cream Cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 4 oz. Mozzarella, grated or shredded
- 4 oz. Greek Feta, crumbled
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
In a 9" x 13" baking dish, toss the chopped spinach, arugula, herbs and scallion greens with 2 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Squeeze the mixture with your hands to wilt, then set aside.
Cook the pasta in the boiling water until just shy of al dente; reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain pasta and set aside. Return the pot to the stove.
Melt the butter in the pot over medium heat. Add the scallion whites, garlic and a pinch of salt, and sauté until softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the cream cheese and pasta water and stir until smooth.
Stir in the wilted greens, half the mozzarella and half the feta until combined.
Stir in the pasta until combined.
Transfer the pasta to the baking dish, then top with remaining mozzarella and feta.
Bake until the sauce has thickened and bubbly and the top has browned in spots, 10 to 15 minutes.