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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
  • 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: 328 calories, 9g fat (4g saturated fat), 40mg cholesterol, 855mg sodium, 36g carbohydrate (6g sugars, 4g fiber), 25g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 vegetable, 1-1/2 starch.

Reviews for Southwest Pasta Bake

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kgburgess User ID: 2727982 258182
Reviewed 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 User ID: 1836523 217269
Reviewed Jan. 8, 2015

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

lrwatkins519 User ID: 5994928 102855
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."

PrincessM7 User ID: 6044679 143104
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!"

countrygirl_717 User ID: 5717474 65995
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!"

PrincessM7 User ID: 6044679 52832
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."

lurky27 User ID: 1251896 60431
Reviewed Apr. 29, 2011

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

~ Theresa"

bakerswoman User ID: 5015523 143103
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"

Lisa Ruby User ID: 2163500 205778
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!"

cookmama300 User ID: 1059070 102814
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."

plugginalong User ID: 126961 134047
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."

lovelyflower User ID: 3898012 56983
Reviewed May. 16, 2009

"I meant Weight Watchers! lol"

lovelyflower User ID: 3898012 52828
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!"

strabue User ID: 3379399 130466
Reviewed May. 8, 2009

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

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