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Southwest Pasta Bake

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
  • Makes
    8 servings


  • 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 package (8 ounces) fat-free cream cheese
  • 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 shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1 can (2-1/4 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In a 13x9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray, layer half of the meat mixture and all of the spinach mixture. Top with remaining meat mixture.
  • 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.
Nutrition Facts
1 serving: 341 calories, 10g fat (4g saturated fat), 49mg cholesterol, 870mg sodium, 37g carbohydrate (10g sugars, 4g fiber), 27g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 vegetable, 1.500 starch.

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Average Rating:
  • Reekersj
    Jan 1, 2021

    Very tasty! I only had regular cream cheese on hand so used that instead of fat free. The family enjoyed it.

  • kgburgess
    Dec 15, 2016

    My family loved this recipe! It was amazing with a dollop of fat-free sour cream on top. I would say this should be called Mexican Lasagna, as the layers were very similar, only with a Mexican flair. It was delicious and so easy to make! I will definitely be making this again. Yum!

  • tifball
    Jan 8, 2015

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

  • Liz21078
    Mar 20, 2012

    No comment left

  • hprincl
    Mar 14, 2012

    No comment left

  • lrwatkins519
    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.

  • amyanne65
    Jan 19, 2012

    No comment left

  • amandasue35
    Dec 1, 2011

    No comment left

  • PrincessM7
    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!

  • countrygirl_717
    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!