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Southwest Pasta Bake Recipe

Southwest Pasta Bake Recipe

Fat-free cream cheese and reduced-fat cheddar make this creamy casserole lower in fat and calories. It's a good way to get our kids to eat spinach in "disguise". —Carol Lepak of Sheboygan, Wisconsin
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 20 min. Bake: 35 min. + standing YIELD:8 servings


  • 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 package (8 ounces) fat-free cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jar (16 ounces) picante sauce
  • 1 can (8 ounces) no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 can (6 ounces) no-salt-added tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1 can (2-1/4 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions


  • 1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in milk. Stir in spinach and oregano; set aside.
  • 2. In a nonstick skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Drain. Stir in the picante sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, chili powder and cumin; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Drain pasta; stir into meat mixture.
  • 3. In a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray, layer half of the meat mixture and all of the spinach mixture. Top with remaining meat mixture.
  • 4. Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with cheese. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with olives and onions. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Yield: 8 servings.

Nutritional Facts

1 serving equals 333 calories, 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 41 mg cholesterol, 996 mg sodium, 38 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 26 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 3 vegetable, 1-1/2 starch.

Reviews for Southwest Pasta Bake

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Reviewed Jan. 8, 2015

"Delicious! I make this for my family at least 1x a month and never have leftovers."

Reviewed Feb. 2, 2012

"I did not like this recipe at all. I don't think the cream cheese or spinach should be added at all. The flavor combinations were terrible."

Reviewed Nov. 13, 2011

"I love this recipe! I do make some changes when I make this. I use 99% fat free turkey instead of beef and low-fat cream cheese instead of fat free. It is delicious and doesn't taste low fat. I highly recommend it!"

Reviewed Oct. 11, 2011

"Loved this!! Made it just as shown except for used fat free ground turkey and Barilla whole grain Penne noodles. MMmm good!"

Reviewed Jun. 15, 2011

"This is delicious! I used 98% fat free turkey (lower fat than beef) and low-fat cream cheese (more taste than fat-free). My husband and I loved it. I will definitely be making this again. I may also try wheat pasta next time."

Reviewed Apr. 29, 2011

"This is yummy, it just takes a while to assemble & prepare.

~ Theresa"

Reviewed Nov. 17, 2010

"I used ground turkey with taco seasoning and added a can of Mexican stewed tomatoes though and it was go good. My family is waiting for me to make it again! :D"

Reviewed Nov. 16, 2010

"My family loved this recipe. I didn't use the low fat or fat free choices but it turned out great! Even my picky three and four year olds liked it!"

Reviewed Jun. 16, 2010

"My family really liked this recipe. The only change I made was using red onion on top instead of green just because I didn't have any. Easy to make too."

Reviewed Jan. 28, 2010

"This was very good. I made it with rice penne pasta (avoiding wheat). The cream cheese and milk get real frothy when whipped so it adds a nice texture to the cheesey spinach middle."

Reviewed May. 16, 2009

"I meant Weight Watchers! lol"

Reviewed May. 16, 2009

"This is an awesome recipe! This is perfect for anyone on Wieht Watchers!! Huge serving that is very filling! My picky 5 year old son even loved it!"

Reviewed May. 8, 2009

"This is very good! My whole family enjoys this, even the picky eaters."

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