You’re gonna enjoy this Italian, layered, vegetarian baked casserole, with cheese tortellini, marinara sauce, zucchini, onions and baby spinach, topped with mozzarella cheese! It’s a flavorful, meatless (you won’t miss it), lightened up dinner, (under 400 calories), for the win!
I found this recipe last Fall on the Weight Watchers website, thought it sounded good, and decided to give it a try. I tweaked the recipe a bit, to serve 4 instead of 8, added a couple ingredients and changed the cooking method. The casserole is baked, but if you prefer, instructions for using a slow cooker (and frozen tortellini) are available below, in the printable recipe notes.
We enjoyed our meal very much (lots of Italian flavor in the marinara sauce, cheese tortellini, and yummy fresh veggies in this meal!), and wanted to share the recipe with you. Here’s how to make this dish:
Diced fresh zucchini and chopped onions are cooked in olive oil on medium high heat for about 5 minutes (the veggies will be very lightly browned). Minced garlic is added to the skillet, stirred in, and cooked for another minute.
Fresh baby spinach leaves, 1 cup of marinara sauce, and seasonings are added to the skillet. Ingredients are stirred well. The spinach can be added in small batches… it looks like a LOT of spinach going in the skillet, but it will definitely wilt down! The skillet is covered, and mixture is simmered for 2-3 minutes, until the spinach has fully wilted. At this point, additional salt and pepper can be added, to suit your taste.
I used a 2 quart casserole dish for the casserole (for 4 servings). To assemble this meal, build it in layers. Spoon 1/2 cup of marinara sauce over bottom of dish. Add HALF of the cooked cheese tortellini to cover the sauce (photo shows only half of the sauce covered). Top tortellini with HALF of the veggie mixture.
Add the rest of the tortellini to top of the veggies. Top with the rest of the veggie mixture. For the final layer, pour 1/2 cup of reserved marinara sauce over top of veggies, then sprinkle with grated mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
Cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil (try not to let the foil touch the top of the cheese, if possible). Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove casserole from oven. Here’s what the casserole looked like when ready to serve. Looks pretty good, huh? Smells good, too!
All that’s left to do is grab a big spoon or spatula, and serve this delicious pasta dish up, while hot!
Hope you will consider trying this tasty, filling Italian pasta and vegetable dish (don’t think you’ll even miss not having meat in it). You might also want to check out my recipe for Cheese Tortellini in a Tomato-Spinach Cream Sauce. Have a wonderful day!
Recipe Adapted From: https://cmx.weightwatchers.com/nui/explore/details2/WWRECIPE:59ce95dd03c03049fd3f55db
- 1 teaspoon olive oil (extra virgin)
- 3 zucchini (uncooked, small)
- 1/2 onion (chopped)
- 1½ teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 cups marinara sauce , divided (store bought)
- 4 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 cups cheese tortellini (without sauce-cooked and drained)
- 1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese , shredded
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (+ additional for garnish, if desired)
Cook tortellini according to package instructions. Once cooked, drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside. TIP: I found it easy (and a timesaver) to cook the tortellini at the same time the zucchini/sauce mixture was cooking.
Heat olive oil in large skillet on medium high heat. Add diced zucchini and chopped onions, stir often, and cook on medium high heat for about 5 minutes (the veggies will be very lightly browned). Add the minced garlic to the skillet, stir to combine, and cook for another minute (be careful to stir and not let the garlic burn, or it will taste bitter).
Add baby spinach leaves, 1 cup (reserve the rest) of marinara sauce, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the skillet. Stir well, to combine. TIP: The spinach can be added in small batches... it looks like a LOT of spinach going in the skillet, but it will definitely wilt down! Once it has wilted, add more to skillet. Once all spinach has been added, cover the skillet, and simmer on low heat for 2-3 minutes, until the spinach has fully wilted. At this point, additional salt and pepper can be added, to suit your taste.
Layer the casserole this way: Spoon 1/2 cup of the reserved marinara sauce over bottom of dish. Add HALF of the cooked/drained tortellini on top of the sauce. Cover the tortellini with HALF of the veggie/sauce mixture. Cover that with the rest of the tortellini. Cover that with the rest of the veggie mixture. Pour remaining 1/2 cup of marinara sauce over top of veggies, then sprinkle with grated mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
Cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil (try not to let the foil touch the top of the cheese, if possible). Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove casserole from oven. Serve, and enjoy!
TIP: If desired, recipe can be made using FROZEN tortellini (packaged without sauce) in a SLOW COOKER, following same process as detailed above (except for pre-cooking the tortellini). Tortellini can be layered in while still frozen. Casserole should be cooked on LOW (covered) until tortellini are tender and fully heated through, (approximately 5 hours). I have not personally tried this, but Weight Watchers recipe utilized this cooking method.
Here’s one more to pin on your Pinterest boards!