Eight different cheeses melting into hot and gooey yum-deliciousness right here, right now, y’all!! Yep!! This gluten free baked ziti with spinach and mushrooms silences your ‘I gotta have cheese, and lots of lots of it TODAY,’ craving. Perfect to feed a crowd of hangry folks, this oversized hunk of cheesy, pasta-y, tomato-y goodnesses’ shareable nature makes you feel less guilty about partaking in its over-the-top indulgence. Yep and yay…
Oh, Gluten Free Baked Ziti With Spinach and Mushrooms, I Will Work for You…Yep!!
I have a really soft spot in my heart for big, overly-stuffed pasta casseroles with lots and lots of cheese. Sometimes I tame the cheese down in these casseroles. But, most of the time I fill these Italian-inspired baked casseroles to the brim with cheese, sauce, and pasta. Why? One because I can, two because they’re sooo, sooo good. And, three because sharing them with others make people very, very happy.
So, when last Sunday’s church fellowship dinner was on the horizon, I knew just what I was going to bring. For days, I walked around the house with the craving in my heart, almost smelling and tasting the gluten free baked ziti hours and hours before I made it. By the time early Sunday morning came, I jumped straight up out of bed, and ran the 15 steps into the kitchen like an Olympic sprinter. I usually hate getting up at stupid o’clock in the morning, but the preparation of this beloved dish was a sacrifice I was gladly willing to make.
Some people tell me that making ziti overwhelms them, so I am including lots of step-by-step pictures in this post. I want to break it all-the-way down for you, so that you have all the confidence in the world to make it for yourself and everyone who is lucky enough to be around the table with you.
Let’s Make the Gluten Free Baked Ziti With Spinach And Mushrooms Easy, Y’all…
First, you preheat the oven. Next, you bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. You are going to cook the pasta to the halfway point of the package directions. You’ll have plenty of time to check on the pasta throughout the sauce-making process, I promise. Don’t worry if you cook them too much. The worst thing that can happen is that they’ll fall apart in the baked ziti. No one will care, I promise, promise!!
Now, get the butter melted, and the Cajun trinity going in your big sauce pot. (Use a bigger pot than the one in the pic, cause I had to go with a bigger one mid-recipe.)
When the ‘trinity’ looks like this, add the ground beef, and cook it down til it looks like this:
Drain the browned meat/Cajun trinity mixture, put it back in the pot, and add the tomato sauce and seasonings:
Cook for about 15 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cook the mixture down for an additional 15 minutes:
Next, add the fresh spinach. It’s going to start cooking almost immediately after you add it, so you’ll only need to cook it down for a few minutes:
Take the sauce off of the heat, and set aside. Then, make the super-quick cream cheese sauce mixture in a small saucepan:
Remove the cheese sauce for the gluten free baked ziti with spinach and mushrooms from heat. It’s now time to layer the casserole in a large greased baking dish. Start with about a cup or so of sauce, just so the noodles and cheese don’t stick to the baking dish:
Now, add some half-cooked pasta, and your first layer of Italian blend shredded cheese, and ooey, gooey delicious cheese to the casserole dish:
Next, add your first layer of yummy and oh sooo beefy tomato sauce:
And, now repeat the layers. You are done!! All you have to do now is place on the oven middle rack carefully, and bake it for 20 to 30 minutes, or until it’s browned on top. Inside the cheese should be melted, and the pasta cooked to perfection. If it’s not, wrap it tightly with aluminum foil if it’s perfectly browned, and put it back in the oven for 10 minutes or so. Now, let it rest for a few minutes, and pull your face back from the foil so you don’t get face-burned from the escaping vapors!!
Yay!! You did it!! This gluten free baked ziti with spinach and mushrooms was oh sooo easy, wasn’t it?? Now, if you can just get someone else to clean the kitchen and all those dishes while you relax, and wait for your ooey, gooey yum-deliciousness to bake… Yep, yay for gluten free baked ziti with spinach and mushrooms, and see y’all on the yum side…
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- 1 16-ounce package gluten free penne pasta
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup chopped onion
- ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 5 cups gluten free tomato sauce
- 2 teaspoons basil
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 4 cups shredded Italian 6-cheese blend
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup milk
- 2 teaspoons tapioca starch
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened and cubed
- 4 slices pepper jack cheese
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- dash cayenne pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When boiling, add entire package of penne pasta. Cook pasta for half of the time called for on the package directions. Drain, and set aside.
- Cook down the Cajun trinity of onions, bell peppers, and celery in 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan.
- When the vegetables soften and begin to brown, add the ground beef. When the beef is browned thoroughly, drain the beef and veggies. Return to the saucepan.
- Add the tomato sauce and seasonings. Cook for 15 minutes, then add the mushrooms and cook for another 15 minutes. Add the spinach, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the spinach wilts into the sauce. Remove from heat. Taste the sauce, and adjust seasonings, if desired.
- Melt the other 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan. Add the milk, cream cheese, pepper jack cheese, garlic, parsley, tapioca starch, and SP&C to the pan. Cook for a few minutes, just until melted. Remove from heat.
- Grease a large baking dish. Spoon about ¾ cup or so of the sauce along the bottom of the dish.
- Spread about one half of the penne pasta over the sauce.
- Add about ⅓ of the shredded cheese, and about ½ of the cream cheese sauce over the sauce.
- Repeat the layers, saving some of the shredded Italian cheese blend on sprinkle on top.
- Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is browned, the cheese is melted, and the pasta is completely cooked through.
- Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.
If you don't like basil all that much, use Italian seasoning, or your other favorite Italian seasoning, in its place. If you don't like Italian seasoning, use your favorite seasoning. (My mom likes just parsley, so that's an option, too.)
Use whatever pasta shape you have on hand. This is great with thin spaghetti, rigatoni, or whatever shape you already have. It may change the texture, but it won't change the taste. I used penne pasta because I couldn't find gluten free ziti near me. If you can, yay you!! The shapes are almost identical, so they are often used interchangeably.