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Baked Penne with Spinach, Ricotta & Fontina

5 stars based on 24 votes

baked-penne-spinach-ricotta-fontina-2

Now that my cookbook manuscript is complete (phew!), I’m refocusing my attention on my website and tackling your recipe requests. (Got a request? Email me.) Many of you have asked for easy weeknight pasta dishes, so first up: a quick riff on spinach and ricotta cannelloni. Instead of stuffing pasta shells with the classic spinach and ricotta filling, I toss penne pasta in a creamy spinach, basil and ricotta sauce, top it with cheese, and then bake it until golden brown. You can get the pasta in the oven in just 20 minutes; toss a salad while it bakes and dinner is done!

ingredients

To begin, cook the penne in boiling salted water until al dente, about 9 minutes. (It will cook more in the oven so you don’t want it completely cooked.)

boiling-pasta

Drain the pasta, then place it back in the pan and set aside.

cooked-pasta

Meanwhile, drain the spinach.

spinach

And squeeze as dry as possible.

spinach-dry

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the dry spinach, basil, ricotta, cream cheese, half-and-half cream, 1 cup fontina, 3 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. (The cream cheese might seem like an odd addition but it prevents the ricotta from becoming grainy when it is heated.)

spinach-and-cheese-mixture-1

Process until puréed.

spinach-and-cheese-mixture-2

Add the spinach mixture to the pasta and stir to combine.

pasta-in-sauce

Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

pasta-in-dish

Top with the remaining fontina and Parmigiano Reggiano.

ready-to-bake

Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the top is golden in spots, about 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then serve.

baked-penne-spinach-ricotta-fontina-3

Baked Penne with Spinach, Ricotta & Fontina

Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 40 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound penne
  • 1 (10-oz) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • ½ cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 6 oz (2 cups) grated fontina, divided
  • 5 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Lightly oil a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
  2. Cook the penne in boiling salted water until al dente, about 9 minutes. (It will cook more in the oven so you don’t want it completely cooked.) Drain, then place the cooked penne back in the pan and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the spinach, basil, ricotta, cream cheese, half-and-half, 1 cup of the fontina, 3 tablespoons of the Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Process until puréed.
  4. Add the spinach mixture to the pasta and stir to combine. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining fontina and Parmigiano Reggiano. Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the top is golden in spots, about 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then serve.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 692
  • Fat: 34 g
  • Saturated fat: 20 g
  • Carbohydrates: 65 g
  • Sugar: 7 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 31 g
  • Sodium: 956 mg
  • Cholesterol: 112 mg

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    This dish is a great weeknight dish – easy to throw together and serves as a one dish meal. The kids love it and overlook the fact that there is “green stuff” in it.
    I don’t bother with the food processor and just mix everything in a bowl, and put some additional whole milk in because the last time I made it, was the pasta felt a little dry. I also make this with brown rice fusili pasta and it comes out great!
    Thanks for another keeper recipe!

    - Ponyo on January 20, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hands down THIS was the hit of my Christmas dinner….NOT the prime rib, chicken, mashed potatoes, homemade yeast rolls, roasted veggies, etc!!!!!! So easy to make…I did use one cup of 2% milk and one cup 1/2 & 1/2 which turned out fine!!I can’t wait to make this again!! Yum! Yum!

    - Wendy G Schoenburg on December 26, 2016 Reply
  • Why does the temp have to be 450? No, I won’t be using pyrex!! LOL! Any chance I can use 350 convection? I’ll have 2 ovens going and may be able to put it in a 450 oven for a few minutes….Thanks.

    - Wendy G Schoenburg on December 21, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Wendy, you could bake this at 350. It will just take a little longer; I suspect it would take about 30 minutes.

      - Jenn on December 21, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this recently and the hubby and even 2 year old loved it. Nice way to sneak in spinach ;)

    - Jennifer on December 5, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Not only did this look spectacular, it tasted great. Followed the recipe as is but enjoy reading about the creativity of your followers. I on the other hand, always follow your recipes as written and now my family and friends think I’m a great cook! Love, love, love this website, the great pictures and your wonderful recipes.

    - MaudGonne on December 1, 2016 Reply
  • We’re empty nesters now. Can I make this, divide in two, and freeze half?

    - Mary L on November 30, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Mary, with all the dairy this contains, I’m not sure how well the dish will freeze. Another alternative is halving the recipe.

      - Jenn on November 30, 2016 Reply
  • 4 stars

    I really enjoyed this dish and my son who is a picky eater enjoyed it. It kind of tastes like a pesto but thicker.

    - Laura on November 17, 2016 Reply
  • Can this be served at room temperature?

    - Sarah Saunders on November 17, 2016 Reply
    • I think it’s best serve hot, Sarah. Sorry!

      - Jenn on November 17, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This was fabulous, even with my forgetting to put in fresh basil from my garden, and having to eliminate garlic for an allergic guest. Made the night before and simply added more half and half after warming.

    - Jane Derickson on November 7, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I’ve tried many of your recipes…all 5 stars for me…for this recipe if you wanted to cut down on the fat I know I could use low fat ricotta, low fat cream cheese…would the recipe turn out the same if I used 2% milk instead of the 2 cups of half & half……

    - Wendy G Schoenburg on November 6, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Wendy, I would be a bit concerned that the milk wouldn’t reduce enough and the dish would be watery, but another reader commented that they used milk with good results. You could try using half milk and half 1/2 & 1/2.

      - Jenn on November 6, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this on Monday! Simply Delicious!

    - Lynn on November 2, 2016 Reply
  • This looks delicious, I haven’t tried it yet. I wonder if this could be made with fresh spinach rather than frozen?

    - Jennifer on October 20, 2016 Reply
    • Sure Jennifer, You can use fresh spinach here. You’ll need to cook it first, then drain as with the frozen. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on October 21, 2016 Reply
    • 5 stars

      I have used fresh Sspinachand just sauted it first in a bit of oil. Works great!

      - Gwyneviere on December 28, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This was really good and reheated well. So much easier than stuffing cannoli shells!
    Thank you for a great recipe and website. Can’t wait for your cookbook!

    - Carol on October 20, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Absolutely loved this dish which paired well with the delicious salad you suggested!
    Can I freeze the left-over pasta?

    - Cathy on October 19, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Cathy, with all of the dairy it has, I’m not sure it would freeze well– sorry!

      - Jenn on October 20, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Dear Jenn,
    I have made so many of your recipes and continue to make them. All of them fantastic and TRUE. But, I must say this Penne and Spinach receipe brings me back to my youth. My Italian mother would make a penne and ricotta with red sauce that was to die for.. This reminds me of that, but just a bit better.
    Thank you for ALL your receipes. I can’t wait to have them all in one place… Maybe a book !

    - Angela Nogueira on October 19, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this dish and my family absolutely loved every bite. I must admit I did not have any ricotta so I left it out. It was very creamy and tasty without the ricotta. Thanks so much for providing tasty, easy to follow creative receipes.

    - Rtaylor on October 18, 2016 Reply
  • Can fresh spinach be used instead of frozen?

    - Dani on October 14, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Dani, fresh spinach will work here. You’ll need to cook it first, then drain as with the frozen.

      - Jenn on October 14, 2016 Reply
      • Thank you😊

        - Dani on October 18, 2016 Reply
  • I live in HI at the moment and it’s difficult to find Fontina here! There is a Whole Foods that carries it, but it’s not terribly convenient to our home. Can you recommend any substitutes? Gruyere? Gouda? Kindly advise! Thank you.

    - Veronique on October 14, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Veronique, Any mild-tasting melting cheese would work well. I’d probably go with whole milk mozzarella (not fresh). Hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on October 14, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Delicious! I used 2% milk instead of half and half and it was still deliciously creamy. I also added diced, pre-cooked chicken sausage from Trader Joe’s for protein which worked really well. My husband and 1 year old both devoured it.

    - Elizabeth on October 13, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this pasta dish last night. Wow, what a hit this was, no one missed the meat. I got home late from work, but had this in the oven in about 20 mins and 20 mins later we sat down to this delicious dish. My daughter who is picky had 3 helpings. It is creamy, flavorful and comforting all at the same time.

    - Trudy Black on October 13, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this for break-fast and it was wonderful! A crowd pleaser for everyone and smelled as good as it tasted. A wonderful blend of fresh favors. Definitely a keeper.!

    - Susan on October 13, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Loved the penne with ricotta, spinach and fontina! Husband loved it too! Will definitely make again. Good way to incorporate greens into our diet.

    - M.E. Smith on October 13, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Definitely will make this again! I’m always looking for ways to add veggies to meals. My grandchildren ate seconds. That’s what I call a success!! Thanks, Jennifer.

    - Wanda N. on October 12, 2016 Reply
  • Are you suppose to grate the fontina I assume?!

    - Kushi on October 11, 2016 Reply
    • Yep!

      - Jenn on October 11, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Fabulous Meal! I made this last night for dinner. Even my finicky 10 year old ate the pasta. I did lighten up the recipe using low fat ricotta, fat free cream cheese and a mixture of 1% milk with half-n-half. It was very good.

    - Beth Harris on October 11, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This was fantastic. The whole family loved it. I substituted part-skim ricotta because I had it already. Thank you for a perfect weeknight recipe!

    - Jamie on October 10, 2016 Reply
  • I made this early in the day. The flavors were wonderful but it was a bit dry. Do you think the pasta absorbed the liquid because I made it ahead of time? Any suggestions?

    - Tory on October 10, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Tory, I don’t think that should make a difference. I’m wondering if it was a bit overbaked– does your oven run hot? Maybe next time try keeping it covered with foil for about half the baking time, then remove the foil to let it brown a little on top.

      - Jenn on October 11, 2016 Reply
    • Tory I made it ahead of time and mine was delicious, but a bit dry too. Pasta absorbs a crazy amount of liquid, so I think that’s what happened. I love making things ahead of time, so I think I’ll try increasing the lovely sauce next time.

      - Susan in PDX on October 12, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    OMG this was so delicious! The cheese sauce was so creamy and full of flavor!
    We’ll definitely making it again!

    - Cathy on October 9, 2016 Reply
  • This looks like the perfect weeknight dinner. What can I substitute for half-and-half? They don’t sell it in Australia

    - Mia on October 9, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Mia, You can use half whole milk, half cream.

      - Jenn on October 9, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Just made this for a post trip to the beach dinner. Can’t wait. Perfect after a day at the Oregon coast. Glad to hear it can be baked the next day.

    - Susan in PDX on October 8, 2016 Reply
  • How far ahead would be safe to make this before putting in the oven? Thanks and we just love all your recipes. My family usually asks at meals “is this Jenn’s” hahaha!

    - Abbie on October 7, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Abbie, So glad you’re family is enjoying the recipes! I would say you could make it a day ahead; just cover it tightly in the fridge.

      - Jenn on October 8, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Oh my goodness! This was so delicious!!! I made this tonight and it was a HUGE hit! (The only change I made was to use a 8 oz bag of pre-washed spinach instead of the frozen. )

    - Larissa Thomson on October 7, 2016 Reply
  • Looking forward to making this tonight!

    - Jo on October 7, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Tried this for my family. It is a great way to get them to eat spinach without them even realizing it!

    - Stuti on October 7, 2016 Reply
  • I don’t have a food processor, can I make this in a blender? It looks really good – I can’t wait to try it! Thank you!

    - Connie on October 6, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Connie, The mixture might be too thick for a blender, but you could certainly try. If it doesn’t work you can always mix by hand; I would warm up the cream cheese in the microwave first.

      - Jenn on October 7, 2016 Reply
  • I love the “Pair With” option to click on! I am having twelve ladies over for dinner soon and this menu will be perfect! Thanks so much!!

    - Tory on October 6, 2016 Reply
  • Can you recommend proportions for lower fat alternative ingredients, perhaps skim milk, part skim ricotta, fat free half and half?

    - Lorraine Lepler on October 6, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Lorraine, If you go with reduced-fat alternatives for those ingredients, the measurements would remain the same. Would love to hear how it turns out if you go that route!

      - Jenn on October 7, 2016 Reply
  • Can’t have spinach – what do you suggest for a substitute?

    - Penni on October 6, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Penni, I think kale or chard would work. Please let me know how it turns out if you try it!

      - Jenn on October 7, 2016 Reply
  • My family loves every single recipe I make from your website! Keep them coming!

    Could I throw in some rotisserie chicken with this dish?

    Thanks, Cynthia

    - Cynthia VanRenterghem on October 6, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Cynthia, So glad you’re enjoying the recipes! I think some chicken would be great in this, and there’s no need to adjust any of the other ingredients. If you try it, please let me know how it turns out.

      - Jenn on October 6, 2016 Reply
  • Any tips or pros and cons on using fresh spinach over frozen in this dish?

    - April on October 6, 2016 Reply
    • Hi April, you can use fresh spinach here. You’d need to cook it first, then drain as with the frozen.

      - Jenn on October 7, 2016 Reply
  • When does the garlic get added?

    - lv on October 5, 2016 Reply
    • Thanks for spotting that, Iv. I’ve corrected the recipe!

      - Jenn on October 6, 2016 Reply
      • Are you suppose to grate the fontina I assume?!

        - Kushi on October 11, 2016 Reply
        • Yes, Kushi. Sorry about that – recipe has been updated. Thx :)

          - Jenn on October 11, 2016 Reply

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