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Baked Penne with Chicken Meatballs and Ricotta

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Baked Penne with Chicken Meatballs and Ricotta
  • Prep 60 min
  • Total 1 hr 40 min
  • Servings 8
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Italian chicken meatballs are combined with tomato basil sauce, spinach and pasta before being layered with dollops of a gooey, cheesy ricotta and baked until brown and bubbly.
Dec 26, 2016

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) plain panko crispy bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) milk
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3 mL) salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) pepper
  • 1 lb (500 g) ground chicken
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • 1 jar (650 mL) tomato basil pasta sauce
  • 4 cups (1 L) baby spinach
  • 340 g (about 5 cups) uncooked penne
  • 1 container (475 g) whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups (500 mL) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) crushed red pepper flakes

Steps

  • 1
    Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
  • 2
    In large bowl, mix bread crumbs and milk; let stand 5 minutes. Add egg, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the parsley, 2 finely chopped cloves garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper; stir to combine. Add chicken; gently combine. Shape into 32 (1 1/4-inch) meatballs.
  • 3
    In 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook meatballs in oil about 6 minutes, turning a few times to brown all sides. Add pasta sauce and spinach in batches; cook until sauce is hot and spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes.
  • 4
    Meanwhile, cook and drain penne as directed on package. Carefully add to pasta sauce and meatball mixture in skillet.
  • 5
    In medium bowl, mix ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, 1 finely chopped clove garlic, pepper flakes and remaining 1/4 teaspoons each salt and pepper.
  • 6
    In baking dish, pour half of the pasta mixture. Place half of the ricotta mixture in dollops over pasta. Spread remaining pasta mixture in baking dish; top with dollops of remaining ricotta. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese over top. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until top is golden brown and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Expert Tips

  • Tip 1
    Browning the meatballs before baking gives added flavour and helps them maintain their shape throughout the cooking process.
  • Tip 2
    Any variety of pasta sauce will work in this recipe.

Nutrition Information

570 Calories, 29.4g Total Fat, 34.4g Protein, 41.8g Total Carbs

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 8
Calories
570
Total Fat
29.4g
Saturated Fat
13.1g
Trans Fat
0.5g
Cholesterol
132.1mg
Sodium
897mg
Total Carbs
41.8g
Dietary Fiber
3.3g
Protein
34.4g
% Daily Value*:
Exchanges:
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
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