Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sweet Potato-Spinach Pasta Bake

I'm constantly searching for new and healthy recipes to make for my family.  Lately, I've felt like I've been in a bit of a rut.  Maybe it's because of the weather, or the fact that my oldest son has been out of school for "spring" break, or due to dealing with sick kids over "spring" break.  Yes, I keep quoting the word spring, because even though it's almost May, it seems that spring has taken a very looooonnng detour from here.  The crockpot has definately been on overtime for most of the winter.  So begins my quest for more colorful food.  I found this recipe on one of the many blogs I follow, The Vegan Version.  While our family is nowhere near being vegans, (maybe someday, right?) I have been slowly adopting a more vegetarian diet with my family.  It's a start, anyway.  The original recipe was called Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce.  As I usually do with most recipes I find, I like to adapt them and with this one, took it one step further.  I only had sweet potatoes on hand, and wanted more color for the dish, so also added spinach and mozzarella cheese.  At that point I decided to just throw it all in a pyrex baking dish and make it a casserole.  This recipe makes a lot.  It will be two dinners for my family of four.  Thanks to The Vegan Version blog for helping me bust out of my rut.

Sweet Potato-Spinach Pasta Bake
(adapted recipe from The Vegan Version blog)

2 large Sweet Potatoes, peeled and chunked
1 Tbsp. Melt Buttery Spread (made with coconut oils)
1/4 Cup Water
1 Rib Celery, diced
1/2 Cup Sweet Onion, diced
2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
1/2 Cup Vegetable Stock
1/2 Cup(for cooking)+ 1/2 Cup (for food processor) So Delicious Coconut Milk
1 tsp. Ground Thyme + 1tsp. for sprinkling on top of casserole
1 tsp. Nutmeg + 1 tsp. for sprinkling on top of casserole
1 tsp. Minced Garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 - 12oz. pkgs. Lundberg's Organic Brown Rice Pasta - Elbows (Gluten-Free)
Approx 2 Cups Organic Baby Spinach, rough chopped
Approx 1/2 Cup Mozzarella Cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large pot, boil the sweet potatoes until fork tender.  Drain and set aside.  In the same pot, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the celery, onion, garlic, 1 tsp.thyme, 1 tsp. nutmeg, salt & pepper.  Stir well.  Add the water and allow the vegetables cook until very soft.  Add back in the sweet potatoes, tomato paste, vegetable stock, and 1/2 Cup Coconut Milk.  Mix well, and cook until sweet potatoes begin to fall apart.  Place mixture in a food processor.  Slowly add in the other 1/2 Cup Coconut Milk while blending, and blend until smooth.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.  Place pasta and sweet potato mixture back into the large pot and mix well.  If you have a deep dish lasagna pan, this will almost fill it.  Otherwise, use 2 9X13 baking dish's.  Spray baking dish with cooking spray, then place the pasta mixture in the baking dish.  Spread the mixture evenly.  Layer with spinach on top, then layer with mozzarella cheese on top of spinach.  Sprinkle 1 tsp. Thyme, 1 tsp. Nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp. Pepper on top of cheese.  Bake in oven for 20 minutes.
Serve immediately.

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