This baked ziti with chicken and spinach is a delicious and simple pasta bake, i.e. pasta al forno. The golden brown mozzarella on the top covers the creamy ricotta and tomato pasta on the bottom providing layers of textures and flavors.
Baked Ziti with Chicken and Spinach
This baked ziti with chicken and spinach is a delicious pasta bake (i.e. pasta al forno) with creamy pasta and cheesy goodness. It is based on the Italian American classic baked ziti dish. Short pasta is mixed with tomato sauce and Italian cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan), topped with additional mozzarella, and then baked in the oven. The resulting pasta al forno is a deliciously creamy and cheesy pasta topped with a golden brown mozzarella crust.
Pasta al Forno with Spinach and Chicken Ingredients
This baked ziti with spinach and chicken adds a few twists to the Italian American classic. Chicken and spinach are added to the pasta mixture, adding additional flavors and textures along with protein and nutrition.
Also, I use rigatoni here in place of ziti. Rigatoni is a short pasta like ziti, but it contains ridges allowing the sauce to adhere more easily.
The main ingredients for baked rigatoni are:
- tomato sauce
- Italian cheese (ricotta, mozzarella, parm)
- chicken breast
- frozen spinach
Tomato Sauce For Pasta Al Forno
Use a basic pasta tomato sauce for pasta al forno. A simple homemade tomato sauce is recommended involving tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onions, and basil. This marinara sauce recipe can serve as a guide, though a smoother sauce (as opposed to a chunky sauce) will also work well.
Making Baked Rigatoni with Chicken and Spinach
To make the baked rigatoni with spinach and chicken, first cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Reserve the cooked rigatoni.
Saute diced chicken breast in some olive oil with salt and pepper until just cooked through. Set aside.
Mix cooked pasta, cooked chicken, spinach, ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, and tomato sauce in mixing bowl.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pasta mixture into a shallow baking dish.
Cover the top of the pasta with shredded mozzarella and parmesan. Bake in oven for 25 minutes.
If the baked rigatoni hasn’t yet developed a deep golden brown crust on top, turn oven to broil until top becomes golden brown.
Serving Baked Rigatoni with Chicken and Spinach
Let the pasta al forno rest for five to ten minutes after baking. Serve using a spatula or large serving spoon. Sprinkle chicken baked ziti with grated parmesan and garnish with fresh basil.
Baked Ziti with Chicken and Spinach
- 1 lb rigatoni, or another short pasta
- 1.5 cups tomato sauce for pasta see recipe for marinara sauce
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 cup parmesan, grated
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 0.5 lb boneless and skinless chicken breast, cut into small cubes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- whole basil leaves, for garnish optional
- Cook dry pasta in salted boiling water. Set pasta aside.
- Heat up olive oil in a large frying pan on stove top. Add cubed chicken and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until just cooked through. Remove to paper towel to drain excess moisture.
- Preheat oven to 350 deg. In a large mixing bowl, add cooked pasta, cooked chicken, tomato sauce, spinach, ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, 0.5 cup parmesan, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix together. Place into a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with some of the remaining parmesan and top with the remaining mozzarella.
- Place pasta in oven and bake for 25 minutes. If mozzarella cheese is browned, remove from oven, it is done. If cheese is not browned, turn oven to broil and cook for another few minutes until cheese is browned. Let cool for five minutes. Serve with basil and remaining parmesan.
Other Pasta Recipes
- Italian Pasta Bake
- Tomato Pasta with Zucchini
- Pasta al Forno
- Rigatoni with Chicken in Rose Sauce
- Baked Feta Pasta
- Pasta with Spinach and Ricotta Cream Sauce