Baked Penne with Pancetta and Spinach

My oldest daughter is returning tonight from a four day rowing adventure at Lake Oroville. She and her teammates rowed two times a day for three days straight, with one practice lasting over four hours. Although I'm sure they were well fed during their crew intensive, I wanted to make a meal for her that was warm and comforting when she arrived home and I thought baked pasta was just that!

Madeleine is not a huge fan of melted cheese on top of baked entrees, so this version is lighter on the cheese than some baked pasta dishes and I threw in some handfuls of spinach to add a little vegetable nutrition. You can pull this dish together quickly, pop it in the oven in probably 20- 30 minutes and while it bakes, make a tasty salad and dinner is on the table in a jiffy!

Baked Penne with Pancetta and Spinach

1 pound penne pasta (or whatever shape you have on hand)
1/2 pound thick cut pancetta or thick cut bacon
1 large fresh mozarella ball or 1 12 ounce ball of mozarella
2 handfuls fresh baby spinach leaves (or leave 'em out if you don't like green in your pasta)
1 24 ounce jar of pasta sauce or your own homemade pasta sauce
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
fresh basil, chiffonade to sprinkle on top to serve

Boil pasta according to package. Dice pancetta and saute over medium heat until browned. Drain and cool on paper towel.  Grate mozarella (if using packaged 12 oz ball) or tear fresh mozarella into pieces. 

Then assemble:  put drained hot pasta back into pasta pot, sprinkle with mozarella and give a quick stir. Then pour in sauce and spinach and stir again. Place pasta in casserole dish sprayed with olive oil spray and sprinkle with shredded parmesan. 
Bake in 375° oven until warm and bubbly and hot. Enjoy with crusty bread and a green salad!

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