Creamy Tortellini & Spinach Bake
from Our Best Bites
12 oz. dried cheese tortellini or 16 oz. frozen cheese tortellini pasta
4 oz bacon or pancetta, chopped (about 4 strips bacon-will need extra for topping)
3 cloves garlic, pressed in garlic press or finely minced
2 Tbs flour
2 cups milk
¾ tsp kosher salt
⅛ tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dry basil
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (1/2 tsp or more if you like spicy)
1/2 medium lemon
2 cups loosely packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
¾ cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided
¾ cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Add tortellini and cook according to package instructions.
2. Place bacon in a medium sized skillet on the stove-top at medium-high heat. Cook until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with slotted spoon and set on paper towels to drain. Reserve two tablespoons bacon drippings in pan and discard the rest. Add garlic to pan and cook until fragrant and tender, about 1 minute. Add flour to pan and stir with a whisk for about 1 minute. Slowly add milk and continue to stir with whisk until smooth. Add salt, pepper, basil, and red pepper flakes and bring sauce to a simmer.
3. While sauce is heating, use a microplane grater or a fine-holed cheese grater to zest lemon. Then cut lemon in half and remove juice from one half. Add 2 teaspoons zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice to sauce. Continue to stir until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Drain tortellini and place back in stock pot. Add the cooked bacon. Add spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Add sauce and gently stir to combine. Place pasta mixture in an 8×8 or 9×9 (or similar sized) baking dish and top with remaining 1/4 cup mozarella and 1/4 cup parmesan and extra crumbled bacon.
5. Cover pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until cheese on top is melted and pasta is bubbly throughout. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.
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