Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Spinach, Pancetta, Mushroom & Fontina Pasta Bake

I love pasta casseroles. They are the perfect make-ahead comfort food. This particular one is packed with flavors and rather healthy: no bechamel sauce, not even an ounce of heavy cream. The creaminess comes from the fontina cheese, which melts beautifully. Its mild flavor lets the mushroom and spinach really shine, and the pancetta provides a bit of saltiness and smokiness.

It reminds me of the spinach-gruyère cheese pasta gratin my mom used to make when we were little, but in a grown-up, more sophisticated way. Perfect to warm my body and soul on a cold autumn night!

Serves 4-6
  • ½ lb penne pasta = 225 g de penne
  • 4 oz. diced pancetta = 115 g de pancetta, coupée en petits dés
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil = 1 cuillère à soupe d'huile d'olive
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced = 2 gousses d'ail, émincées
  • 1 small onion, chopped = 1 petit oignon, coupé en petits morceaux
  • 1 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped = 450 g de cremini (petits champignons bruns), coupés en morceaux
  • Salt and pepper = sel et poivre
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes = ¼ cuillère à café de flocons de piment rouge séché
  • ¼ cup white wine = 60 ml de vin blanc
  • 6 oz. baby spinach = 170 g de jeunes pousses d'épinards
  • 6 oz. fontina cheese, grated = 170 g de fontina, râpée
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan = 45 g de parmesan en poudre

Cook pasta in a large pot of unsalted water, according to package directions. Drain but reserve a few tablespoons of cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium-high heat and brown pancetta for a few minutes. Set aside and drain fat from skillet. In same skillet, heat olive oil, add garlic and onion and sauté for a few minutes. Add mushrooms and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Continue cooking and stirring, until mushrooms are nice and brown. Add white wine and scrape bottom of skillet for 30 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl.

Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C.

Steam spinach in microwave for 1 minutes. Add to bowl. Stir and add grated fontina and cooked pasta. Season with additional salt and black pepper to taste. Stir everything thoroughly. If the mixture seems too dry, add a few tablespoons of pasta cooking liquid.

Transfer to a buttered baking dish and top with grated parmesan. Bake, uncovered, until bubbly and browned, about 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Note: you can make this casserole ahead of time and refrigerate it, unbaked for 24 hours. The chilled dish will take about 1 hour to fully bake.

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