This Turkey, Spinach Pasta Bake with penne pasta is one of my kids favorite dinner casseroles. I usually make it the week after Thanksgiving with turkey leftovers but once in a while, I’ll make it with rotisserie chicken too. This casserole is filling, has protein and lots of veggies. Plus all the Mediterranean flavors and no butter, put it in the healthy column for me which is a bonus when you have kids:).
Ingredients for this Penne Pasta Bake
Here are the ingredient I use for this recipe. Hope it helps make your cooking a lot easier.
- Leftover Turkey or Rotisserie Chicken – I use poultry for this recipe, it adds protein and usually leftovers make the process so much easier for a busy weeknight dinner.
- Spinach – you can add a lot of spinach and it will wilt, so it won’t change flavor much but it will add a lot of greens to your dinner.
- Green peas – usually I use frozen green peas.
- Fresh parsley – I use fresh parsley for both cooking and garnishing, so usually I tend to use a whole bunch.
- Seasonings – feel free to customize the seasonings to your taste but I usually use Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper.
- Garlic – how can you cook a Mediterranean pasta dish with no garlic?
- Onion – 1 yellow onion finely diced usually works
- Tomato paste – yes I love to make my own tomato paste and tomato sauce, but for this dish I use canned and it works great! After All I’m trying to put dinner on the table in between kids activities and homework.
- Penne pasta – I tend to make recipes where I use the whole box of pasta so I use one box of penne pasta (1 lb or 16 oz).
- 1 cup stock (chicken stock or turkey stock)
- Cheese – mozzarella and parmesan but I tend to substitute a lot if I don’t have these 2 available.
Process Of Cooking This Baked Pasta Casserole
Let’s break down the process so it makes cooking easier. Assuming you’re using leftover chicken or leftover turkey and also assuming you are using canned tomato paste.
- dice or shred the turkey meat or chicken meat
- cook pasta to 3 minutes less than what the box says is al-dente. So if the box says 10 minutes al dente, cook for 7 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, drain the pasta and set aside.
- saute onions and garlic in olive oil until fragrant and translucent.
- add tomato paste and seasonings to onion and garlic. Then add green peas, turkey, pasta water, seasonings and stock. Mix everything well.
- add spinach at the end
- after a minute or two when spinach has wilted, add penne pasta (or your favorite pasta).
- pour everything onto a casserole dish (usually a 8×11 would be perfect)
- bake covered in aluminum foil for 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Uncover and add cheese, bake for another 10 minutes until cheese starts to bubble.
- Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with your favorite side salads and dinner rolls.
Substitutes and Variations
This dish and recipe is very forgiving not only in ingredients but also quantities. As long as you don’t lose track of salt and seasonings involved, everything else will be fine:).
- Pasta – I like to use a tubular type pasta for this recipe. My favorite is penne pasta but you can use rigatoni, ziti etc.
- Spinach – you can use baby kale instead of spinach.
- Turkey – you can use leftover turkey after Thanksgiving but also ground turkey is an option. You just have to brown the turkey really well. Also, rotisserie chicken is my favorite to use when baking this dish.
- Cheese – besides mozzarella and parmesan I have occasionally used swiss cheese, Granaand Jarlsberg cheese. Go for real Parmigiano-Reggiano if you can or Grana Padano.
One of the favorite things to do with this casserole is to set up the night before. I cover the casserole and refrigerate it. Then next day, I just stick in the oven and bake it for 20 minutes covered, add the cheese and continue baking for 10 minutes uncovered.
I love to serve this casserole with a simple green salad with lots of romaine lettuce or arugula.
This casserole has 8 servings, so two full dinners for may family of 4. I usually set it up on a Sunday, bake it Monday evening and we eat dinner with this dish Monday night and Wednesday night. Refrigerate the leftovers for 2 days in an airtight container.
I haven’t tried freezing this baked pasta dish, but if you do please let me know in comments how does it hold up.
Turkey, Spinach Pasta Bake
- 1 Porcelain baking dish
- 16 ozs penne pasta or pasta of your choice
- 2-3 cups roasted turkey or chicken
- 3 cups spinach
- 1 yellow onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 cup fresh parsley about 1 whole bunch
- 1.5 cups green peas frozen is ok
- 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
- 0.5 tsp crushed red pepper add more for a spicy dish
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 0.5 tsp black pepper
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 cup chicken or turkey stock
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 2 tbsps tomato paste
- Dice or shred the leftover turkey or chicken.
- Cook penne pasta to 3 minutes less than al-dente, so if instructions say 10 minutes for al dente, cook 7 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, drain the rest.
- While pasta is cooking, add olive oil to a large pot. Saute onions and garlic until translucent and aromatic at medium high heat. Use a wooden spoon to mix often so onions don't stick to the bottom.
- Add turkey to onions. Mix then add tomato paste, parsley, salt and seasonings. Add green peas and mix really well.
- Add 1 cup of pasta water and 1 cup of stock to incorporate all ingredients. Cook few minutes then add spinach.
- Once spinach has wilted, add pasta into it and mix again.
- Pour everything into the baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes covered at 350 degrees F. Uncover the dish as seen in the video, add both cheeses on top. Bake for another 10 minutes, this time uncovered.
- Garnish with fresh parsley, wait 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy it with a big salad:).
- you can cook this dish in 50 minutes from start to end if you’re using leftover turkey from Thanksgiving or rotisserie chicken.
Yes this baked pasta casserole can be gluten free. I used regular penne pasta for my recipe, but you can replace regular penne pasta with gluten free penne pasta. There are several brands in the market that provide gluten free pasta. One of the most prominent options in US markets is Barilla Gluten Free Penne pasta. At Whole Foods and smaller pasta stores, you can find additional less known brands but with great gluten free options. Those pastas are made with anything from Chickpea flour to rice flour and even quinoa flour. Just awesome options!
First step is to boil the pasta few minutes less than al dente. Then when placing the casserole for baking, you have to cover the casserole with aluminum foil or another over safe cover. This will keep the steam inside the casserole and prevent the pasta from drying out. Only remove the cover the last 10 minutes after covering everything with cheese.
Any tubular pasta would be delicious in this casserole. My favorites are penne, rigatoni, ziti etc. Any pasta really with some hollow space in between tastes great because the hollow space would be filled with the delicious filling that has veggies, poultry and spinach. So each bites would deliver all the flavors at once!! Yum:).
If you would like to save this recipe for later, please save the below image to your boards in Pinterest. Let me know in comments if you have any questions or feel free to tag me in social media with your version of this recipe:). Thank you so much for reading my blog!!!
Other Family Dinner Recipes
If you’d like to see more family dinner recipes from my blog, please feel free to check out the below recipes:
- Mediterranean Leek Casserole
- Shrimp in Tomato Sauce and Pasta
- Shrimp and Polenta
- Creamy Chicken with Spinach and Mushrooms
- Baked Chicken Drumsticks and Rice
- Baked Chicken with Potatoes