Feed 4 for NZ$20 – Spinach and Tomato Pasta Bake (Gluten Free)

Many conversations with friends lately have confirmed my own experience – food is getting more and more expensive. And following a gluten free diet, which is a medical necessity for those with coeliac disease, was expensive enough before prices seemed to start climbing so high so quickly! And so I have set myself a challenge of trying to come up with some gluten free meals that feed four for under twenty New Zealand dollars. I won’t break down my price calculations as I know they will vary from shop to shop and region to region; however, for every meal I blog in this series the actual ingredients that I use will have cost me less than NZ$20. I calculate costs based on the actual amount of an ingredient that I use in a particular recipe and will try to include the cost of every ingredient except salt and pepper, which are relatively cheap and probably in most peoples’ pantries already.

Reduce the cost:

Switch the cheese from mozzarella to a cheaper block of cheese, such as (in New Zealand) Edam or Tasty cheese or (in the UK), cheddar cheese to cut the cost of this down to below NZ$15. The cost could also be further reduced by substituting the ricotta with white sauce. For a tasty sauce that will complement this dish well, make it a Greek Bechamel (made with eggs as well as flour, butter and milk) with a bit of salt and nutmeg.

What you need:

200 to 400 grams of gluten free pasta*                                                                                                 

250 grams of frozen spinach, defrosted

A 400 gram tin of diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons of sundried tomatoes (optional)

½ teaspoon of smoked paprika

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of oregano

Salt to taste

½ cup of ricotta cheese

1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese

*Every pack of gluten free pasta that I looked at gave a different size as a normal single serving, so calculate how much you need according to the package instructions for whichever pasta you prefer

What to do:

1. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions, but for a couple of minutes less than the amount of time stated on the package.

2. Turn the oven on to 180°C fan to pre-heat.

3. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the spinach, tinned tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, smoked paprika, garlic powder, oregano and salt to the pot and stir together until well combined. Be generous with the salt! Check the taste and adjust the seasonings as needed until you are happy with the flavour.

4. Spread the pasta evenly across the bottom of a baking pan – I used a 29 cm pie dish but anything will work, so long as it is big enough to hold everything without the food being spread too thin across the bottom.

5. Dollop the ricotta over the pasta and then carefully smooth it into a thin layer that covers all the pasta.

6. Top the ricotta with the grated cheese and put the dish into the middle of the pre-heated oven to bake for 15 to 20 minutes (or more if you had cooked and cooled the pasta before starting step 2 of this recipe) or until the pasta is heated through and the cheese on top has melted and started browning. If the pasta is sufficiently hot before the cheese has started browning, turn off the oven and finish melting and browning the cheese under a grill.

7. Eat warm and enjoy!

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