A savory, versatile recipe including meat or chicken, pasta, spinach, cream cheese, tomato sauce, and spices, topped with grated cheese.
Variations: Use 3 cups chopped chicken instead of ground meat. Add 1 small can of sliced ripe olives. Substitute Mexican Blend cheese or Monterey Jack for the Cheddar cheese.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pasta according to package directions.
Cook onion, bell pepper and garlic in olive oil. If using, add ground beef and cook until browned.
Stir in the picante sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, chili powder and cumin. Heat thoroughly.
In mixer beat cream cheese with milk, oregano and green chilies. Stir in spinach.
Stir spices, sauces and pasta into meat mixture. Mix meat mixture with spinach mixture and pour into a greased 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes.
Uncover Southwestern Pasta Casserole; sprinkle with shredded Cheddar cheese and bake 5 minutes longer until cheese is melted. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.