While making this baked fusilli, my mind wandered to Japan and its cheese situation. We used to travel 15-30 minutes on the train to various import food stores, where we’d pay an exorbitant amount for “exotic” cheeses like cheddar, parmesan, and mozzarella. At regular Japanese supermarkets, some of the few cheeses available were “pizza cheese” (shredded, mild white cheese), and cottage cheese, which for some reason was more like ricotta cheese in texture and taste. One of our fellow English teachers found that Japanese cottage cheese was a good substitute for ricotta in her baked ziti recipe. Sure enough, we tried it and it was true! We were reminded of that baked ziti when we tasted this pasta dish, but for this recipe we were able to purchase the ricotta we needed, and at a reasonable price! It’s sort of a cheater dish, because we used our favorite jarred marinara (Newman’s Own Organic), but we don’t mind cutting corners when we have an almost-crawling 8 month old!
As a side-note, over dinner we were reminiscing about our English classes and remembered that one of our students said that her favorite lasagna recipe (given to her by an American English teacher) included cream of mushroom soup. We had never heard of this before! Has anyone actually put cream of mushroom soup in lasagna!? The idea sort of offends me, but maybe it’s a regional thing (?)
Baked Fusilli with Marinara, 3 Cheeses & Spinach
3/4 lb. Fusilli
2 TBS. extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bunches of spinach, trimmed and washed
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 24-oz. jar of your favorite Marinara (you’ll use about 3/4 of it; save the rest for another use)
1 tub of Ricotta
4 oz. fresh Mozzerella, grated
- Cook the fusilli in boiling water for a little less time than indicated on the package so that it’s pretty al dente. Drain and set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté garlic in olive oil until fragrant and beginning to turn golden, about 1 minute. Add the spinach and stir until wilted. If skillet becomes dry, add a tiny bit of water. Season with a little kosher salt & freshly ground pepper.
- Add 3/4 of the jar of Marinara to the wilted spinach, a couple dollops of ricotta cheese, and a small handful of Parmesan. Stir to combine.
- Pour the cooked pasta into the skillet with the sauce and gently toss to combine. Pour half the pasta/sauce mixture into a greased baking dish. Scatter several more dollops of ricotta over the pasta. Pour the remaining pasta/sauce mixture over the ricotta. Top with a liberal amount of shredded Mozzerella cheese, and another small handful of Parmesan.
- Bake at 375 until the cheese is melted and the whole thing is starting to bubble, about 15-20 min. Place under the broiler for the last minute so the cheese can brown nicely. Let rest a few minutes before serving. Serves 3-4 (or 2 hungry people with leftovers).