Dairy Farmers of Canada

Spinach Cavatappi Gratin

This recipe is taken from the 2011 Milk Calendar. This vegetarian pasta dish is light and fresh-tasting and so easy to make. The crispy, golden topping really tops it off beautifully.

  • Prep: 5 min - 10 min
  • Cooking: 20 min
Yields 4 servings
spinach cavatappi gratin
The delicious gratin dish presented in this video has all the elements of a casual weekday meal: pasta in a light sauce with carrots and spinach covered with a layer of fresh breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese. An easy meal that’s ready in less than a half hour!


  • 12 oz (375 g) whole wheat or regular cavatappi or fusilli pasta
  • 2 carrots shredded
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups (500 mL) Milk heated
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) cold Milk
  • 6 cups (1.5 L) baby spinach (142 g package)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly grated Canadian Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup (250 mL) fresh whole wheat bread crumbs
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In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook cavatappi according to package directions until almost tender, adding carrots for the last 1 min of cooking time; drain.

Return pot to medium heat and melt butter. Add garlic, paprika, 3/4 tsp (3 mL) salt and 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper and sauté for 1 min. Gradually whisk in hot milk. Whisk flour into cold milk and whisk into pot. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 min or until bubbling and thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in pasta, spinach and half of the Parmesan cheese until spinach is wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Butter an 8- to 10-cup (2 to 2.5 L) shallow casserole or baking dish. Spoon pasta into prepared dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs and remaining Parmesan cheese. Broil for 2 to 3 min or until topping is golden.


To make “fresh” bread crumbs easily, use frozen whole wheat buns or bread and grate on the coarse side of a box cheese grater. Extra crumbs can be frozen in a sealable bag for up to 3 months.

Tip for Kids: Kids can shred the carrots and the cheese, help measure the ingredients, stir the pasta with the sauce and sprinkle on the topping.

For the Adventurous: Use smoked paprika in place of the regular or add 3 oz (90 g) chopped smoked salmon. Use Swiss chard instead of spinach, adding to sauce and cooking for 1 min before adding pasta.

Healthy Eating Tip: Yeah for spinach! It’s a rich source of folate and vitamin A, but contrary to popular belief, green vegetables, and specifically spinach are not reliable sources of calcium. Thankfully, the milk and cheese in this dish bump up the calcium quotient to extraordinary levels so you get bone building benefits along with Popeye’s favorite veggie.

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Nutritional information

Per serving
Energy: 540 Calories
Protein: 28 g
Carbohydrate: 92 g
Fat: 10 g
Fibre: 10.9 g
Sodium: 415 mg

Top 5 Nutrients

(% DV*)
Calcium: 40 % / 440 mg
Folate: 76 %
Magnesium: 83 %
Vitamin A: 63 %
Vitamin B12: 50 %