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Pasta Spinach Bake in Creamy Lemon Sauce

I obviously don't follow directions well... you'll see this week after week in my recipes.  My plan was to make Tortellini Spinach Bake in Creamy Lemon Sauce for dinner last week... Well it didn't quite happen like that.  So, to view the original recipe, check out the link above.  I did however come really really close.  Basically I couldn't find the tortellini, and didn't think to substitute it with ravioli or another stuffed pasta - especially when I have a hoard of regular pasta in my pantry!  So here is what I did do:

This pic is not 100% accurate, as I ditched the Parm and went with all marble
1 box Cattelli Healthy Harvest Pasta $16 strips bacon, cooked & crumbled $1
3 'cloves' garlic, minced $0.06
2 Tablespoons flour $0.01
2 cups milk $0.66
3/4 teaspoon salt $0.01
1/8 teaspoon black pepper $0.01
2 teaspoons basil $0.04
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes $0.06
1/2 medium lemon $0.21
2 cups loosely packed fresh spinach, chopped $0.60
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese $2.35
Total Cost: $6.01  Serves 6 = $1/serving

Now, as a personal preference, I would suggest only using 3/4 of the box of pasta if you'd like it a little more saucy (which I do).  There was enough sauce to cover everything, and it was very flavourful, but the pasta just wicked up the sauce and it was a little sticky by the second helping... Trust me, you'll be looking for seconds!

1.  Cook pasta according to package directions.
2.  Cook bacon until crisp - remove and crumble.
3.  Drain off excess grease, reserving 2 tablespoons in the pan.
4.  Add garlic to pan and saute until fragrant - 1 minute.

5.  Whisk in flour, and continue to whisk for 1 minute.
6.  Slowly add milk and keep whisking until smooth.
7.  Add seasonings and bring to a simmer.

8.  Zest 1/2 the lemon into the pan and add the juice as well.  Continue to stir until thickened 2 - 3 minutes.

9.  Combine drained cooked pasta, 3/4 of the bacon, spinach, 1 cup cheese and sauce.  Gentle fold to combine.

10. Place into a greased 13x9 pan.  Top with remaining cheese and bacon.

11. Cover and bake at 350' for 20 minutes.  Remove cover and bake an additional 5-10 minutes until cheese is bubbly.

Our Best Bites who created this recipe did a fantastic job - this sauce is delish - and I was leery about the lemon, but those who are on the fence about it - try it!  Don't let the lemon scare you off!  As a side note, it also made me feel like a 'real' cook whipping this sauce up!!  I think in the future I'd like to try making it again with a little pesto whisked in... or mushrooms... or chicken...

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