Unstuffed Pasta Florentine

We used to love making many different varieties of stuffed pasta shells, but now that we’ve gone the whole-grain route, I just cannot (easily) find jumbo whole-wheat shells in order to make all of our old favorites. So instead of giving up those yummy one-dish meals, I have just decided “unstuffed” dinners may be the way to go.

I am excited to share this super easy and super tasty version of Pasta Florentine that I adapted from a recent issue of Rachael Ray magazine. If you need some inspiration to switch things up with new recipes, then order a couple of food magazines. I love to flip through for ideas!

Oh, and PS – This particular dish was a HUMONGOUS hit with the kids. They have both repeatedly asked me if I can make it again. So enjoy!

Unstuffed Pasta Florentine Recipe from 100 Days of Real Food #pasta #realfood

 

Unstuffed Pasta Florentine from 100 Days of Real Food #realfood

Unstuffed Pasta Florentine

Instead of giving up one-dish meals, I've decided "unstuffed" dinners may be the way to go. I'm excited to share this super easy and tasty Pasta Florentine.
3.9 from 15 votes
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 20 mins
Print Recipe
Servings: 6 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound whole-wheat pasta rigatoni
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 onion large, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
  • 2 cups milk or cream, or a combination
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 5 ounces spinach fresh (or a combination of spinach/Swiss chard/kale, sometimes labeled as "Power Mix")
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella cheese diced or shredded
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese grated

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the broiler to high and ensure a rack is placed in the upper third of the oven.
  • Boil the pasta according to package directions. It is best to work with warm pasta, so I would not recommend doing this too far in advance.
  • In a medium sized pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more.
  • Whisk in the flour until it slightly darkens in color, about 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk (and/or cream) and nutmeg and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a heavy simmer and cook while stirring until the sauce thickens, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, spread out the cooked noodles in a large casserole dish. Layer the fresh spinach (or other greens) on top. Once the sauce is done, evenly distribute it over top. Carefully fold the noodles and spinach together with the sauce.
  • Add spoonful dollops of ricotta on top of the noodle mixture. Sprinkle with mozzarella and then the Parmesan.
  • Broil until browned and crispy on top, about 5 to 6 minutes (but watch closely since ovens do vary).

Notes

We recommend organic ingredients when feasible.
Nutrition Facts
Nutrition Facts
Unstuffed Pasta Florentine
Amount Per Serving
Calories 692 Calories from Fat 297
% Daily Value*
Fat 33g51%
Saturated Fat 19g119%
Cholesterol 104mg35%
Sodium 671mg29%
Potassium 537mg15%
Carbohydrates 68g23%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 37g74%
Vitamin A 3255IU65%
Vitamin C 7.9mg10%
Calcium 656mg66%
Iron 4mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

 

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96 thoughts on “Unstuffed Pasta Florentine”

  1. 4 stars
    I read quite a few reviews before trying this recipe out and decided it would be good to make some adjustments of my own as well. Here’s what I did:

    1/2 the butter
    1/2 the parm.
    1/2 the ricotta
    1/2 the moz.
    Add 1 zuccini chopped
    Add more spinach
    Add 1 green onion chopped
    Add two hand fulls of snow peas chopped
    Add an extra clove of garlic

    I also melted the ricotta and parm. into the sauce to make it extra thick with salt and pepper to taste.
    Instead of layering the dish I mixed it all together with tongs- picking everything up and folding it over itself until all of the ingredients had been coated in sauce. I topped it with about 8oz of moz. and put it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes…. IT WAS FANTASTIC. My husband and I could hardly stop eating it. Plenty gooey, and tons more flavor! It was like comfort food had pleasantly surprised us. I highly recommend making these adjustments!

  2. 4 stars
    As written, I think this recipe would probably be three stars. But with a few changes, it bumped it up significantly. Here’s what I did:

    1. I cut back on the ricotta, probably by about half.
    2. I increased the Parmesan by 1/4 cup or so.
    3. I mixed the ricotta and Parmesan into the white sauce and added salt & pepper to taste. A number of reviewers mentioned it was bland as written. Add salt! It will do wonders.
    4. I cut up the spinach (mostly to appease my small children) and mixed everything except the mozzarella together. Then I topped it with the mozzarella and baked it, covered, at 375 for 20 minutes, then uncovered it and broiled it for a few minutes to brown the cheese.

    Also, this is just a matter of personal preference, but I did double the garlic. We are garlic lovers here!

  3. This is the first recipe on your website that my kids did not like. So that’s like 1 out of 47? ;) then again my kids hate ricotta cheese …. Who hates ricotta cheese?? Ah well. I loved it. I think next time I’ll add the greens to the sauce mixture and wilt it a bit first. And i suppose i should omit the ricotta cheese… Party poopers those kids!! ;)

  4. 5 stars
    We had this for dinner last night, and it was so delicious!

    I did adapt the recipe a bit based on some of the other reviews, but the end result was super tasty AND both of my picky children gobbled it up (I did add about 1/4 c red sauce on the top of theirs – they’re not fond of white sauces)

    We added sweet Italian sausage (1/2 lb) and mushrooms to ours. Used 3/4 c of ricotta and half the amount of the other cheeses (melted parm into sauce). Replaced 1 c of milk with chicken broth. I did have to add a bit of organic corn starch to help thicken the sauce (I think because I used the broth), but the dish came out beautifully!

    Thank you for sharing this with us!!

  5. Thank you for sharing this recipe! I will be trying this out for sure. While I am not vegetarian I do like to have a few meals here and there without the need to fill it with meat. Thank you! I also like that I can sneak in veggies here for my kids! Can I use almond milk in place of regular milk?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Brittany. While we have not tried, I think it might work. Almond milk is much more thin than a milk cream combination so it may not thicken up as well. Let us know if you experiment. ~Amy

  6. I totally spaced out on the mozzarella , I have baby bell and mild cheddar… Any suggestion to replace it? I also add zucci and squash…

  7. 4 stars
    This was delicious, albeit quite rich. I wanted to cut back on all the saturated fat, so I used half the butter, half the ricotta, and 2/3 of the mozzarella. It was still plenty cheesy and yummy. I think I’ll double the greens next time like some other folks have done.

  8. I also felt this recipe was a little (or a lot)… unbalanced as written. We have a vegetable lasagna that has some similar flavors, so I decided to adapt a few elements of that and it turned out GREAT!!! Yum yum yum. My kids loved it, and my 2 year old even asked for thirds!

    The changes I made were:
    Add extra clove of garlic
    Decrease Parmesan to 1/2 cup and melt into white sauce
    Increase spinach to about 1/2 pound
    Add 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
    Add 1 can artichoke hearts, chopped small
    Omit ricotta cheese
    Stir together pasta, sauce, and veggies, and alternate half of pasta mixture with half of mozzarella, and repeat

    Bake at 400 until brown on top. Just so, so yummy!!

  9. For those of you that say this isn’t healthy, I made a few substitutions and it turned out well: I replaced half of the milk with chicken broth, decreased the ricotta to 1/2 cup and cut the mozz down to 1/2 cup as well. I omitted the Parmesan and cut the butter in half. I added a container of mushrooms (I sautéed them with the onion until they released their moisture). Very good and healthier. I mixed it all together and sprinked with a tiny bit more cheese.

  10. 1 star
    A big letdown :( I was super excited to try this recipe. Unfortunately it just wasn’t as good as I had hoped. I found it pretty bland and under-seasoned. I didn’t like the way it was layered. If I were to make it again (which I doubt) I would probably try mixing it all together and topping it with mozzarella instead of layering it. Also, the broiling method didn’t really heat it all the way through. I would probably bake it and then maybe broil at the end. Also, I don’t really think this is very “healthy”. You have about 4-1/2 cups of various cheeses, 2 cups of milk/cream and only 5 ounces of spinach. Sorry, I wish I liked it better.

  11. I have made this twice, and it’s so good! I love the creamy sauce. I actually baked it on 400 instead of broiling it b/c my oven is awful. I added some diced tomatoes, and I actually liked it better this time!

  12. There is so much Cheese, Butter and Whole milk usage in these recipes. This is my 7th week of doing these recipes and I feel I have put on some lbs. I feel like I might get CHOL or BP or somethin. The family here is very lean and look fit and might have time for doing good amount of excercise. It might work for them, but for someone like us, very less excercise with corporate america desk jobs and regular weight (BMI is well within the range but still trying to loose some weight), I doubt it. Its Real food but not necessarily healthy for all. The family is trying to follow how ppl ate in yester years with out considering the fact how the lifestyle and world has changed from then.. People would walk everywhere, there was lesser pollution and lot less stress and various other factors.

    1. Of course is a dish with many calories. It contains pasta, cheese and besamel. If you want to make it with less calories, change butter with 5 spoons of olive oil, put just milk and add just one cup of parmesan. It not a food for everyday but for special dinners. If you have a healthy way of life it is ok to eat it sometimes.
      Also this site is about real food and not for low calories dishes.

    2. You could always save this for what is known as a “cheat” meal. That’s what I’m planning on doing as I eat mainly paleo-style 6 days a week and then have a “cheat” day on the 7th where I have whatever I want. There are a TON of real food recipes that don’t have as many carbs or calories (though I don’t actively count them anymore, myself).

  13. Yum! This sounds delicious. Will this be added to the recipe index? Are there other recipes on the blog not listed in the index? I just want to make sure I can find it again. :)

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Laura. It will and you can always search for the archived post as well. That is true for all posts. :) ~Amy

  14. 4 stars
    Delicious – lots of cheese so if that’s not your thing, you can cut it back a little bit. Especially broiling it at the end and getting that chewy golden brown melty cheese on top was the best part. I might try it again with added cooked Chicken breast or something – could be a complete meal1

  15. 5 stars
    I made this last night with my 14 yr old daughter helping. We added 1 lb of cooked Italian sausage (elk) also. I loved the pinch of nutmeg in the sauce – gave it a little rounder flavor. Added just the right touch. Only thing I would change is add some salt in somewhere (maybe the sauce?) and possibly bake a bit to make it extra warm. It was fabulous re-heated for lunch today!!

  16. Is the ingredient list really correct? If I convert it into weight (sorry, can’t get used to this cup-stuff) it results in about 150g spinach, 750 g (!) cheese and 500 g pasta. That does not sound too promising. A kid’s menu at McD might be the healthier option.

  17. 4 stars
    I hate to say it, but I’m Sicilian and I had my doubts with this recipe. I was in a pinch one night and decided to make it and it was GREAT! I made a few changes (added Romano/Parmesan blend shredded cheese and a little chicken bouillon, and omitted the nutmeg – also baked for 25 minutes) and it was a huge hit. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Cari. Normal substitutions for nutmeg would be mace, or more commonly on spice shelves, cinnamon, allspice, ginger or ground cloves. We’ve not substituted for nutmeg in this recipe, however. ~Amy

  18. This was delicious! I added 1lb of crumbled cooked italian sausage and followed the rest of the recipe perfectly, and it was devoured by all! Thanks!

  19. Not sure if anyone has mentioned this other alternative idea yet, but I’ve just made a dish of roll-ups using whole wheat lasagna noodles and the filling I would normally stuff jumbo pasta shells with. Nestled them on a base of tomato sauce, with some more and some mozza over the top and it looks delicious. They will also separate well for leftovers, freezer meals and school lunches.

  20. 4 stars
    Made this morning and stuck it in the fridge before heading to work. Threw it in the oven at 350 for about 25 minutes and then did 2 minutes under the broiler to brown the top. It was really wonderful and the entire family (yes, kids included) enjoyed it. Thank you for the recipe.

  21. This in the oven for dinner here tonight. I made some small changes: preheated at broil but turned temp down to 400 & bake immediately after putting dish in oven (one rung above middle) & baked for 18min (the top crisped up beautifully!!), buttered the baking dish ahead, used 1c heavy whipping cream & 1c 2% milk in the white sauce, used about 8oz of baby spinach, folded ricotta in with noodles, spinach & sauce then added a bit more on top, poured a can of diced tomatoes with garlic & oregano on top of one half (just to see how it would taste) used 12oz of mozzerella & I minced some fresh basil out of my window to sprinkle on top of each serving… The house smells delicious!!

  22. WINNER!! Served this last night and was a hit all the way around. Immediately adding this into the meal rotation. Thanks!

  23. This was a yummy dinner. My kiddos are very picky and always complain about my cooking. This is a keeper. No complaints tonight. I might try to bake to get it hotter. It seemed to chill quickly. Thank you for the recipe.,

  24. I’m eager to try this and was just about to post to ask about baking it rather than broiling it. I have had not so good experiences with broiling so I’d prefer to bake it. I’ll try as one post mentions above and bake it at 400 for 25 or so minutes. Thanks for all the great ideas!

  25. 5 stars
    This dinner was a big hit tonight! My kids raised an eyebrow at first at the spinach, and they ate around it some, but they loved it and asked for more! I did change it a bit as I mixed the ricotta in with the pasta and baked it for about 25 minutes at a 400 oven.

  26. Holly, you could use cottage cheese if you didn’t have ricotta. I’ve used it in a pinch. It’s not the same, but it will work.

    1. I have a dairy allergy and I make “ricotta” with tofu. I mix a package of tofu with about 1-2TBS of honey and 1-2TBS of apple cider vinegar. Add some salt and pepper as well. I mix it in with lasagna all the time and you can’t taste the difference. I plan on using the same recipe for this.

  27. Ug! This looks sooo good! Wish baby #3 wasn’t giving me a dairy intolerance as I would totally eat that right up!

  28. When you say, “Carefully fold the noodles and spinach together with the sauce,” do you mean that you are rolling it up? Sorry, I’m confused by that last step. Thanks! Sounds delish, though. :)

    1. She means to mix gently (fold is a baking term), so that the pasta gets evenly coated with sauce and spinach, but doesn’t break up. It’s easiest to use a spatula, to draw pasta from the bottom and then fold over, till evenly coated.

  29. 4 stars
    I made this for dinner tonight. It really seemed like a *lot* of cheese, but it was quite delicious. I pureed the onions into the sauce, because my kids will reject onion pieces in food, but they still wouldn’t eat it. *sigh* If cheese laden pasta is unacceptable, I am not sure what to feed them.

  30. 4 stars
    I personally thought it was really good! Not diet-friendly, but definitely yummy! The crunch top was so delicious, I wanted to peel it off and eat the whole thing LOL! Unfortunately, my extremely picky 6 yr old was not impressed in the slightest, and is currently choking it down. She doesn’t have anywhere near the palette your daughter’s have, but I’m hoping it will come in time. I really enjoy one dish meals, hope you will post some more :)

  31. This is tonight’s dinner…prepped & in the fridge, ready to heat/broil once my homemade honey oat wheat bread is almost done baking. Can’t wait! I cut the recipe in half since we are only 3 & it still filled a 9×13 pan, and I suspect we’ll get 5 hearty servings from it. I also added sliced mushrooms to the onion/ garlic mixture. I entered the ingredients into the recipe builder on Myfitnesspal.com & w/ a half recipe making 5 servings (so 10 servings for the whole recipe), using 1% milk instead of cream (that’s what I had on hand), & whole milk cheeses, the nutritional info looks like this, per serving: 402 calories, 14g fat, 45g carbs, 9g fiber, 50g cholesterol, 28g protein. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Fran. We do not provide nutrition information on our recipes. We want people focusing on eating real foods/more whole foods and less on numbers. Here are some posts which help explain our philosophy: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/01/04/healthy-eating-defined/, https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/01/23/portion-size-matters/, and https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/10-reasons-to-cut-out-processed-food/ and https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/04/29/mini-pledge-week-8-stop-eating-when-you-feel-full/. There are many tools available online which can help calculate nutrition detail for recipes. ~Amy

  32. For the fresh spinach or power mix does anyone know if frozen would work? I have a huge bag or organic kale that was a great deal at Costco that I thought I would use for sure but kale is a fairly new thing to us and so far we know that we like kale chips and I don’t think that would work with frozen kale. Recipe looks great and I can’t wait to try it!

    1. I have made similar recipes with kale that I had purchased fresh, washed, dried, chopped & put in the freezer & it worked out fine!

  33. Do you have to broil it, or could you bake it to heat everything and melt the cheese? I know the cheese won’t brown if it isn’t broiled, but just wondered if it was just as good baked.
    Thanks!

  34. I happen to have some of that green leafy power mix in the fridge so this will be on the menu for Monday. I also plan to make the sweet potato soup tomorrow for dinner. Both look and soud so yummy! I also enjoyed the discussion of “grilling”, “broiling” and BBQ. It is always interesting to learn from other cultures.

  35. 2 stars
    I made this tonight and it was ok. I think it needed more spices – salt, pepper, and maybe basil or oregano. Just seemed a bit bland. I added diced zucchini so it would have more veggies.

  36. 4 stars
    Thanks for the great recipe! I made this tonight. Even my super-picky eaters finished without too much of a fight! I might try it with some more veggies like peppers or zucchini in the future. The sauce was great and I will use it as a base for other dishes for sure!

  37. If you wanted to make this lower fat, instead of using milk/cream, use the same amount of cottage cheese. Just put it in the blender and puree it until it’s smooth. It tastes like you used cream, but is much lower calorie!

  38. Hi Lisa,
    This recipe reads as one I will try!
    I understand that people do not publish a nutritional breakdown for most whole foods type recipes. I am a 59 year old woman with Type 2 diabetes for 20+ years due to steroids given for antibodies during infertility treatment in the early 1990’s. I have been slowly transitioning to a more clean food plan. It is often very difficult to determine the amount of a dish I should enjoy. I have gotten pretty good at “guessing”. The main issue are not to much carbohydrate count and an ample amount of protein.
    Thank you for your commitment to wellness!
    Blessings!!!

    1. Paula, I track recipe nutrition through loseit.com. There are other websites and apps that will let you enter recipes and automatically calculate the nutritional information. Look around for one that works best for you.

  39. Have you tried manicotti instead of stuffed shells. My mom makes manicotti from scratch and it is a little like making pancakes and then stuffing and rolling them. I think you can easily adapt a manicotti recipe to be whole grain. My impression is that is just eggs milk and flour.

  40. Brittany @ proteinandpumps

    I’ve been looking for a new “pasta” recipe. Can wait to try this one! As always thanks for sharing and for your commitment to spreading the healthy word ; )

  41. This looks so good! Can’t wait to try it. We love one dish meals around here. Putting it in the meal plan for next week for sure :)

  42. Hee, this sounds really yummy and all but I’m sorry to have to point out that it is *not* “one dish” anything. Unless you are referring to the finished product being in one dish? One dish would usually be used to refer to the amount of dishes for clean-up. This recipe leaves you with three.

    1. Actually a “one dish meal” is technically when you bake (or slow cook) it all in one dish…not how many you use in the process of making it :) At least that is the only way I’ve heard the term used.

  43. Actually, I think “broiling” in the US = “grilling” in the UK. Grilling to those of us in the US is usually what those in the UK refer to as bbq.

  44. Suz, yes, grilling = broiling.

    Sherryl, the UK has a different dialect of English. Not all English speakers use the American dialect. That means words mean different things in the UK than the US. Ovens (or “cookers” or “hobs”) have a “grill” setting, not a broil setting.

  45. Is Broiling the American for grilling? Sounds very yummy and I happen to have a bag of spinach from the veg box this week. Super sorted :)

    1. Not really Suz –

      Broiling is a high heat method of cooking to quickly sear and cook meats. You can broil in an oven or on the stove top (for meat – not this pasta dish). The heat is generally applied to the food from the top when you broil in an oven. Things get REALLY hot and burn REALLY REALLY quickly, which is why you have to watch it closely ;)

      Broiling is what gives you that nice, crispy, cheesy crust you see in Lisa’s picture :)

    2. Broiling is when you turn the burner at the top of your oven on, so the heat is very hot and only comes from above. It’s a great way to get cheese melted and a bit crispy!

    3. Sorry for the confusion…I am referring to the “broil” setting on the oven. It’s just a really high heat to melt the cheese and brown the top.

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