Most people feel like winners when they accomplish something great or actually win something. But true winning, the kind that really matters, is when you can put off that grocery trip one more day. That’s an extra 24 hours without getting bumped by a cart at the deli counter or suffering through Air Supply belting out “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” over the loudspeakers while you wait behind a guy who’s comparing all the eggs.

I will work hard for that triumph.

My latest last-ditch meal was a really cheesy Baked Spinach Rigatoni using three things I always have on-hand: pasta, frozen spinach and cheese. I used Monterey jack, so my rigatoni had more of a “mac-and-cheese” feel, but if you happened to have some mozzarella, it’d be like eating stuffed shells without having to actually stuff the shells. A lazy man’s manicotti. And that really is winning.

Baked Spinach Rigatoni

For a “lazy man’s manicotti,” use mozzarella instead of Monterey Jack, and serve with your favorite tomato-based pasta sauce.

Slightly adapted from “Food & Wine” (September 2008)

Yield: 8 servings

  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed (that’s about 5 ounces fresh spinach)
  • 2 cups (about 1 pound) ricotta cheese
  • 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) Monterey jack, divided (substitutions: mozzarella, fontina, Gouda, Muenster)
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray or olive oil.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the rigatoni, and cook for 12 minutes. Drain. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl, and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  3. Meanwhile, squeeze as much water as possible from the spinach. Put the spinach in the food processor. Add ricotta, 3 tablespoons of Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Stir in half the Monterey jack.
  4. Add the spinach mixture to the pasta, and stir to combine. Taste it, adjust your seasonings, and transfer to your prepared dish.
  5. Top with the remaining Monterey jack and Parmesan.
  6. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the top, if you’d like. Bake until the top is golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.