This pesto bacon pasta bake is a cheese lover’s delight. Make one for now and one to freeze for later.
Calling All Cheese Lovers
Here’s your casserole cheese lovers.
This pasta bake is chock full of Italian blend cheeses. However, there’s no work on your part to shred them since this is a blend sold in your store’s dairy case. So all you have to do is drop a couple of packages in your cart and you’re set to go.
The Few Extra Steps Are Worth It
This casserole requires that you make a basic white sauce as the base for the creamy sauce.
I generally don’t like recipes that have added steps because I’m all about quick and easy, but I’m telling you that this one is well worth it. This pasta bake has a fantastic taste and texture, and anything that’s this good is surely worth the extra work.
This casserole originally began as a freezer meal, so what I advise doing is making double the recipe so you can eat one today and pop the extra one in the freezer for that “rainy day” when you simply don’t feel like cooking.
Did I Mention Bacon?
As if this casserole couldn’t get any better, it also calls for everyone’s favorite: BACON!
The bacon flavor really comes through here too. It blends so well with the great-tasting sauce, pasta and the spinach!
The original recipe from Happy Money Saver called for the addition of cubed cooked chicken, but I didn’t feel that was necessary so I left it out. I made a couple of other adjustments to the original, but nothing major.
The casserole isn’t meat free because of the bacon. However, it can be made vegetarian by omitting the bacon and perhaps substituting a soy-based baconlike product instead. Sadly, there is no way to make this vegan–meaning where it would taste good.
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 16 oz penne pasta - cooked al dente and drained
- 4 cups shredded Italian cheese blend 16 ounces
- 3 cups fresh baby spinach
- 2 cups ready-made pasta sauce -OR- 2 cups of your own homemade
- 1½ cups milk
- 3 tbs basil pesto
- ¾ cup crispy bacon- finely chopped
- ½ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 tbs olive oil
- Make a simple white sauce by melting butter in a pan over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour over melted butter and whisk constantly for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Then add in chicken broth and whisk quickly together. Cook over heat until it’s thick and bubbles up. Set white sauce aside.
- Cook penne pasta according to package directions. Drain noodles and then dump them into a large mixing bowl.
- Add in white sauce, cheese, spinach, pasta sauce, milk, pesto and ½ cup of the bacon. Mix well.
- Pour pasta into a 9x13 baking dish.
- In a separate bowl mix together parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, remaining bacon and olive oil.
- Bake at 350 ℉ for 45 minutes.
Adapted from Happy Money Saver Yum