Tex Italian Pasta Fiesta

I know this is the time of year where I should be posting all kinds of sweets 
and candy, and I'm sure I will, but I've been going back through some of 
my old recipes, the ones I learned to cook on. I'm talking about the ones 
I started collecting when I was first married, 30+ years ago, and figured it
 was time to dust them off and share them with you.

After all, they may be from way back when, but deserve to see the light of day again. 
Ha, I'm a poet and didn't know it.

It's easy to forget about all those tried and true recipes from way back, especially 
with all the new ones you collect along the way.

I have 1000's that I will probably never get around to making, but for 
some reason I have a horrible time passing them up.

Anyway, I'm saying all this to let you know, that I am going to be revisiting 
some of those oldies but goodies. And how they bring back 
all those good 'ole memories of times gone by.

I started with this Tex Italian Pasta Fiesta. Simple and delicious! 
Also, a great way to sneak veggy's into your kids diet.

Start by browning the ground beef and cooking the onions and garlic.

Add the sauces, paste and seasonings. I like to use Pace for the picante sauce.

Make sure you squeeze the spinach pretty dry so you don't have too much excess moisture. 

I usually cook the noodles just barely shy of al dente because of the 
additional cook time in the oven. 

To make it easier to cover the bottom layer of meat/pasta, I drop small spoonfuls of 
spinach/cheese layer over the entire top and gently spread.

Cover with the remaining beef mixture.

So awesome!

Linked with Weekend Potluck and Foodie Friday.

Tex Italian Pasta Fiesta

8 oz. mostaccioli or penne pasta
1 lb ground chuck
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 c. picante sauce (I like Pace)
8 oz. can tomato sauce
6 oz. can tomato paste
2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes (if desired)
10 oz. chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch salt and pepper
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Heat oven to 350*

Cook pasta according to package instructions and drain.

Brown ground beef. Right before it is completely brown, give it a little drain, then add onions, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until beef is brown and onions are softened. Add picante sauce, tomato sauce and paste, chili powder, cumin and red pepper flakes if using. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning then stir in drained pasta.

Squeeze spinach dry and chop. Combine spinach, cream cheese, milk, oregano, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Put 1/2 of the meat mixture into a prepared 13x9 baking dish. Cover with the spinach mixture then top with remaining meat mixture.

Cover loosely and bake 30 minutes. Sprinkle on cheese and bake uncovered 5-7 minutes more. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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