Baked Pasta Casserole Recipe

This baked pasta recipe features vibrant flecks of chopped spinach and lemon zest, toasted almond slices and oozy, bubbly cheese all enveloping sturdy little pasta shells.

Baked Pasta Casserole

Vibrant flecks of chopped spinach and lemon zest, toasted almond slices and oozy, bubbly cheese all enveloping sturdy little pasta shells. Spurred on by many days of dark skies and puh-lenty of rain this winter, I spent an unnatural amount of time mulling over ideas for a baked pasta casserole. I wanted to do something a little different than the standard tomato sauce pasta pan. I also wanted to keep things a bit lighter than some of the cream and/or egg-based classics. I finally got around to giving this a shot the other day, and it was good! It's actually hard to come up with a relatively healthy pasta casserole (well, it had me stumped for a while) - like the pasta salads we've talked about before - everything just has a tendency to get so uber-starchy, drowning in too much sauce or cheese, and out of balance. Anyways, on the casserole front, this is my attempt to rein it in a bit, and still have it taste delicious.

A slice served with a citrus-dressed side salad is a nice lunch. Nibbles from the pan first thing in the morning are also hard to resist. Hint: go for the crusty, golden corner pieces where the sides of the pan meet the bottom.

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Baked Pasta Casserole Recipe

I use whole wheat shells here, but feel free to experiment with other short pasta. If you are in a pinch for time forget the baking all together and just toss the cooked pasta with the spinach skillet, and sprinkle with the mozzarella before serving.

extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound whole wheat pasta shells
sea salt
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups well-chopped fresh spinach
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds, lightly toasted
zest of 2 lemons
8 ounces mozzerella, shredded or torn into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter/oil a large casserole dish or baking pan - something roughly equivalent to 13x9-inch pan.

Boil the pasta in salted water per package instructions. Drain pasta, toss with a glug of olive oil. Set aside.

In the meantime, heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high. Saute the onions with a couple pinches of salt for a few minutes (or if you want a bit more depth of flavor until caramelized). Stir in garlic. Stir in spinach. Cook for just about 20 seconds, until the spinach collapses a bit. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the almonds and 1/2 of the zest. Add to pasta and stir and stir - mixing extremely well, a minute or so.

Now sprinkle the bottom of baking dish with the rest of the zest. Add a layer of the pasta to the bottom of the baking pan, now sprinkle with some of the cheese, add more pasta, then more cheese. Finish with a layer of cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until cheese on top is bubbly and melty. Serve sprinkled with the remaining almonds.

Serves 8.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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This was off the chain. The flavors were complex enough to impress foodies (me) but the dish was comforting enough for a stressed girl during college midterms (also me). Brava for mac n' cheese re-imagined.


Lovely, lovely, lovely. The brightness of the lemon, the cheesiness of the cheese, crunch of the almonds, the buttery spinach... altogether delightful. I used leeks instead of onions--milder flavor, worked very well. Caroline in DC's idea of putting in spicy sausage is an excellent one; another alternative, perhaps, is to serve a small fillet of fresh salmon on the side, steamed simply, with barely a touch of butter. I'm not vegetarian and I do like fish or meat in my meals, hence these thoughts. But I have to say, even without the meat, I found this recipe very satisfying. It is now on my list of to-make-frequently.


I tried this tonight, adding a little left over italian sausage and parmesan cheese, and it was fantastic. This is definitely going into my regular rotation.


Hi I have been following your blog for sometime now and have made many of your recipes, although converting US to UK measures requires a bit of guess work sometimes ;-). I made this recipe last night and just wanted to say that it tasted great! The lemon zest made it taste and smell really fresh and bright. My other half was most impressed! Thank you for such a great idea. P.S. I will be having a go at the Balck Bean Brownies this weekend!


Mmmmmm..... I just finished a bowl of this pasta and I had to post and THANK YOU! It just so happened I had all of these ingredients on hand so it was perfect timing. I half expected it to be, oh, bland I guess. I should never have doubted you. Soooo yum. Thanks Heidi


I made a modified version of this recipe, and it was fantastic! I used chopped brussel sprouts instead of spinach, and robusto cheese (randomly picked at the store) instead of mozz, no almonds or zest. The BF ate most of it, he was even picking at my plate when done with his. Thanks for all the wonderful recipes!!! Some whole wheat pastas are good, others aren't. I like the Whole Foods brand.


Typically whole wheat pasta does absolutely nothing for me except snarl. THIS looks YUMMY though. Kudos!!!


I read your blog all the time, but this is my first comment. I tried the baked pasta for dinner last night and LOVED it. The lemon/garlic aroma was mouth-watering and I like that it was not weighed down by a heavy sauce. I also really enjoyed the crunch of the almonds. Fabulous dish! I think I will try the anzac cookies next.


This looks delicious. I just found your blog. I love it. I will keep checking back and bookmark it.


I made this with kale and put in some lemon pepper since it turned out that I didn't have any lemons. Thank you for the wonderful idea.


Wow, just gave this a run and it is great. Added in some fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes and shredded parmesan (also, too much salt, but that's all my fault). Keep 'em coming. :)

Just Joe

I usually have all of these ingredients on hand so I could make this on a moment's notice. What a great recipe. Thanks!


I am thinking lacinato kale and soft asiago or smoked mozzarella would be good. I will have to substitute pine nuts, as my better half hasn't figured out that they count as nuts as well.


I always check your site for new different recipes I can try, this one was my first and I think it turned out great...I got my 2 yr old picky eater to actually enjoy this meal (she loves pasta but wasn't sure about how it looked after a minute she gave it a try and ate her whole slice...I can't wait to see what you will put up next!!! Thanks!!


This is the first time Ive been on your website, this recipe is really good my family loves pasta. It is difficult to find easy and delicious veg pasta recipes, Thanks and I hope to see a lot more veg recipes.

Sue Govender

I love your web-site, and this is a delicious recipe I am going to try. From the south of Spain, thanks and congratulations.


A definite hit in our house and so easy to make. I will definitely make it again!


This looks outstanding. I must try a baked pasta casserole, nothing beats crispy and chewy pasta loaded with cheese. Almonds seem like a great addition. Thanks! - The Peanut Butter Boy


I've never seen whole wheat pasta look so appetizing!


I used to be abhorred by casseroles. Too many flashbacks to my mom's tuna casserole and all of those we were forced to eat in the church basement. This dish is a whole new realm! I may be getting cured of my PTCD (post traumatic casserole disorder)


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