If you were to take Spinach Artichoke Dip and bake it into a pasta, you’d have this creamy, tangy, cheesy casserole. Finish it all with crushed Ritz crackers for a crunchy topping.
Now that winter has fully set in, I’m craving cozy dishes. Dishes that have a fun twist and bring some warmth to the dinner table, especially since it’s dark before 5pm...ugh. I’ve been thinking about this dish for months since I was visiting a friend for lunch one day and she brought out slow cooker spinach and artichoke dip that we ate with tortilla chips. It might have been years since I’d had that warm, creamy, green-veg rich dip, but one bite reminded me why it’s a combination that just works.
To go with this retro dip-inspired pasta, I wanted a retro topping and that meant Ritz crackers! If you’ve never had a casserole topped with crumbled Ritz crackers, consider this your moment. Mixed with a little melted butter and parmesan cheese, those Ritz get even more golden, even more buttery, even more addictive when baked. Serve with these (also addictive) Garlic Bread Hawaiian Rolls to round out the meal.
Here’s how to make this pasta bake.
- Dried Pasta - Use a shape that will soak up sauce and spinach. I used cavatappi and it is a great shape for holding the other ingredients so you get a little in every bite.
- Marinated Artichoke Hearts - For the most flavor, I like to use artichokes that are marinated in oil. These are often marinated with dried herbs and garlic and just help to add more flavor to the dish. Frozen, defrosted artichokes will work, but aren’t quite as flavorful. No matter what type of artichoke hearts you use, it helps to chop them up a bit before adding them so they are evenly distributed throughout the pasta.
- Cut Leaf Spinach - I tested this recipe with fresh spinach as well, but it cooks down to almost nothing, so you don’t get as much coverage as with frozen. Frozen cut-leaf spinach is already chopped, so it’s easy to use. Just be sure to defrost and then squeeze as much liquid out as possible before using it.
- Milk - Use any type, though whole milk makes for the most rich, creamy sauce.
- Cream Cheese and Shredded Mozzarella - This combo makes the sauce creamy and cheesy.
- Thyme Leaves - Fresh leaves or dried will work.
- Vegetable Stock - If you don’t need the dish to be vegetarian, chicken stock works too.
- Olive Oil, Garlic, Unsalted Butter, All-Purpose Flour, Salt, Black Pepper, and Red Pepper Flakes - Pantry / fridge staples.
- Ritz Crackers and Parmesan Cheese - Don’t skip this flavorful topping that gives each bite of pasta a crisp, buttery bite.
- Make it Gluten-Free - Use gluten-free pasta and skip the all-purpose flour and Ritz topping. You can just use plain parmesan cheese as a topping or sub your favorite gluten-free cracker for the Ritz.
- Add Protein - Try adding cooked chicken or, for a vegetarian protein, fold in some white beans.
- Mix up the Cheese - Provolone, havarti, or Swiss would all work in place of the mozzarella. Or try using a combination of several types.
More Cozy Pasta Recipes
- Instant Pot Italian Sausage Pasta
- Chicken Enchilada Pasta
- Chicken Parmesan Pasta Bake
- Creamy Sweet Potato Pasta Bake
- Lasagna Bolognese
- Skillet Chicken Pasta with Sweet Potato and Crispy Sage
- Root Vegetable Lasagna
Spinach and Artichoke Baked Pasta
- Large Saute Pan
- 9 x 13 Baking Dish
- Small Mixing Bowl
For the Pasta
- 1 lb Dried Pasta, like Cavatappi, Fusili, or Penne
- 2 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 12 oz jar Marinated Artichoke Hearts, drained and chopped if in large pieces
- 3 cloves Garlic, chopped
- 16 oz Frozen Cut Leaf Spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
- 3 tablespoon Unsalted Butter
- 3 tablespoon All-Purpose Flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- ½ teaspoon Thyme Leaves, fresh or dried
- ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
- ¼ teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
- 2 ½ cups Vegetable Stock
- 1 cup Milk (whole milk will make for the most rich, creamy sauce, but any milk will work)
- 4 oz Cream Cheese (use block cream cheese, not the variety in a tub)
- 6 oz Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
- ½ teaspoon Lemon Zest
- 6 oz Ritz Crackers, crushed
- ⅓ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 2 tablespoon Unsalted Butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 400°F / 204°C. Brush a 9x13 baking dish with oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain.
- Place a large saute pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and then artichokes to heated oil. Saute until artichokes are starting to turn golden and crisp around the edges, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Stir in garlic and spinach and saute until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add butter to pan. When butter melts, stir in flour, salt, thyme, black pepper, and red pepper flakes until no dry spots of flour remain.
- Pour 1 cup of stock into pan and whisk until it begins to simmer. Add remaining stock and milk and bring to a simmer. Simmer until slightly thick, about 5 minutes.
- Remove sauce from heat and whisk in cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, and lemon zest.
- Stir pasta into sauce and transfer to prepared pan.
- In a small bowl, combine crushed Ritz, parmesan cheese, and melted butter. Sprinkle over top of pasta.
- Bake pasta, uncovered, until topping is golden and cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes.
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