Good gracious, how does Giada De Laurentiis stay such a skinny Minnie. I mean with cheese smothered pasta dishes like the chicken carbonara from the other day and rich espresso brownies to today’s cheesy pasta side dish, she must have either serious self control or an amazing personal trainer or a metabolism to be envious by all. All I know is that come Monday (because new diet and exercise plans can never start over the weekend) I am going to have some serious gluttony sins to repent for. This amazingly simple pasta side dish did not help these problems.
Pasta graces our table on a regular basis (probably more than it should). However, usually it takes center stage as the main course and not a side dish. However this penne pasta with spinach sauce was the perfect accompaniment to some leftover chicken that needed to get eaten. This sauce was smooth and creamy and with the ‘hidden’ spinach kids and adults alike won’t know what hit them (it can be our little secret!). Plus adding spinach to a cream sauce makes it healthier and more forgivable… right?
Notes: I modified the original recipe quite a bit by adding cream and extra cheese for additional flavor. Also the recipe for the ‘sauce’ minus the reserved pasta water would make a tasty veggie dip if you ask me! This made a perfect side dish but could also serve as a great vegetarian main course!
Penne with Spinach Sauce
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes Serves: 5-6 as a side dish, 2-4 as an entree
1/2 pound penne
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 ounces cream cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
3 tablespoons pasta water
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the penne and cook until it is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Mince the garlic in a food processor. Add the mozzarella cheese, cream cheese, heavy cream, salt, pepper, spinach leaves. Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Transfer the cheese and spinach mixture to a small sauce pan.
Drain the pasta, reserving 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Add the reserved pasta water to cheese mixture in the small sauce pan. Heat cheese mixture over medium-low heat for 1-2 minutes. Scrape the cheese and spinach mixture over the pasta and toss to coat. Season the pasta, to taste, with additional salt and pepper if needed and serve.
adapted from “Giada’s Family Dinner” by Giada De Laurentiis
One Year Ago: Restaurant Review- Z’Tejas