Easy food for a crowd

Quick and Easy Pasta Bake

I am big fan of the potluck. Getting together with friends to share a couple of hours and a meal is one of my favorite things to do. Over the years, I’ve developed a stable of reliable potluck recipes, but this one is my very favorite. It is easy to throw together, is always yummy, and every ingredient it requires can be purchased at Trader Joe’s, which is helpful for me, since that’s my closest grocery store.

It’s just a quick pasta bake that combines traditional American Italian flavors, but is often a hit nonetheless. I start off by cooking off a bag of whole wheat rotini pasta. Before draining the al dente pasta (you don’t want it to be too mushy, since you’re going to stick it in the oven for a little while) I use a Pyrex measuring cup to pull out some of the pasta water, in case the sauce needs to be thinned down a little.

Once the pasta is drained, I turn it back into the pot and add two jars of pasta sauce (this is a great way to use up those leftover half-jars that have a habit of gathering in the back of the fridge). After giving that quick stir, I toss in a bag of frozen, chopped spinach, a couple of cloves of minced garlic and some dried herbs (typically oregano and basil). I let the heat come up a little and then dump in a tub of cottage cheese and half a cup of grated parmesan cheese. Then it’s just a quick tumble into a baking pan (my aunt Doris’s brownie pan is my favorite), a topping of grated or sliced mozzarella and ten or fifteen minutes in the oven. I bake it at 350 degrees for a while to make sure that the whole thing is well heated before giving it a minute or two under the broiler to ensure that the top gets brown and bubbly.

And that’s it. It’s great for a potluck because it’s fairly healthy (I always go for the low or non-fat cheese, Cabot makes a great non-fat cottage cheese), doesn’t contain any meat (always a safer choice when you don’t know exactly who’s going to be attending), makes a ton and improves as it sits in the fridge (on the off-chance that you have leftovers).

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