This Baked Penne with Spinach, Ricotta & Fontina, recipe courtesy of Jenn Segal – Once Upon a Chef, is a delicious quick and easy riff on classic spinach and ricotta cannelloni. Instead of stuffing traditional pasta shells, toss penne pasta in a creamy sauce made with spinach, basil, and ricotta. After topping the dish with two flavorful cheeses, bake it until golden and bubbly. To ensure a smooth and creamy texture, add mascarpone (or cream cheese) to the sauce to eliminate any potential graininess that can sometimes occur with ricotta-based sauces.

Servings: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 10 Minutes, Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 40 Minutes


    • 1 pound penne
    • 1 (10-oz) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
    • ½ cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped
    • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
    • 4 oz (½ cup) mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese)
    • 2 cups half-and-half
    • 6 oz (2 cups) grated fontina or whole milk mozzarella, divided
    • 5 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmigiano Reggiano), divided
    • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg


    1. Preheat the oven to 450°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Lightly oil a 9 x 13-inch ceramic baking dish.
    2. Cook the penne in boiling salted water until al dente, about 9 minutes. (It will cook more in the oven so you don’t want it completely cooked.) Drain and rinse under cold water, then place the pasta back in the pan and set aside.
    3. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the spinach, basil, ricotta, mascarpone (or cream cheese), half-and-half, 1 cup of the fontina (or mozzarella), 3 tablespoons of the Pecorino Romano (or Parmigiano Reggiano), garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Process until puréed.
    4. Add the spinach mixture to the pasta and stir to combine. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining fontina and Parmigiano Reggiano. Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the top is golden in spots, about 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then serve.