Baked Orzo with Spinach, Feta & Lemon

Tossed with sautéed spinach and garlic, plus lemon zest and feta cheese, this baked pasta dish is a winner.

1 pound orzo pasta
1½ cups crumbled feta cheese
2 cups baby spinach
1 large garlic clove, minced
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly-chopped thyme
Zest of 1 lemon
¾ cup Panko-style breadcrumbs
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Lightly coat a 2-quart baking dish with oil.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the spinach and cook, tossing, until it starts to wilt, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain well and toss with the spinach mixture, feta, 2 more tablespoons of olive oil, half the thyme, and lemon zest. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining tablespoon of oil, the remaining thyme, and a pinch of salt. Sprinkle on top of the pasta.

4. Bake the pasta until the breadcrumbs brown and the pasta heats through, about 20 minutes (cover with foil if the top browns too quickly). Let cool for a couple of minutes before serving.

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