Monday, January 30, 2012

Half Indulgent Penne

I was in the mood for a creamy alfredo type sauce tonight, and knew that my three year old would eat pasta (finally!). After figuring out was was available in frig, freezer, and pantry, I came up with this yummy, filling dish that caused my little boy to clean his plate and contemplate seconds. (This is a cause for celebration, just so you know.)

This dish is made up of a mish-mash of leftover bits and regular ingredients I keep in my kitchen, which you'll soon figure out when you see the amounts listed for the various cheeses. You can tweak it to fit what you have in your pantry and change up the amounts. Since my husband has been working on our landlord's barn for the past few weeks, I've served up some version of this for lunch about once a week. It really is a versatile dish and perfect for this winter weather.

At our house, we usually have Half and Half in the frig for my husband's tea, but we rarely have heavy cream. So that's what I most often use for this dish. Thus the name. I figure it's only half as fattening as it would be otherwise. And the tool that makes this super easy is a silicon Calphalon whisk that looks a bit like a spatula. (In other words, it's not a balloon whisk. But I don't know the exact name.) Happy cooking!

***This recipe easily serves 4. (We served two adults and one child, and have enough leftovers to have for tomorrow's lunch.)

1 Package Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed and squeezed dry of water
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 c. Carrots, chopped
Handful of Asparagus Spears, ends snapped off and remainder cut into one inch pieces
1/4 c. Pine Nuts
2-3 T. Butter
2 c. Half & Half + some to get desired consistency (you could also use whole milk)
1/3 c. Grated Parmesan
1/3 c. Shredded Mozzarella
1 T. Cream Cheese
1/4 c. Basil Pesto (I make this in summer and freeze in cylindrical ice trays to use year round.)
Salt & Pepper to taste
2-3 cups Penne Pasta

1. Cook penne according to directions so that it is al dente. (I usually add in a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking.)

2. Melt butter in skillet and add in garlic with a bit of salt. Saute over medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant and slightly softened. Add in cream cheese and basil pesto and whisk to melt.

3. Add in half & half and gently whisk to combine. Slowly add in parmesan and mozzarella, whisking to combine as it melts. Sprinkle in salt and pepper.

4. Add in spinach and stir. At this point, you may need to add more half & half to retain a good sauce consistency. You be the judge. As the spinach cooks, it will give off a bit of liquid, but if you've drained it well, it won't give off that much.

5. Add in carrots, asparagus, and pine nuts. Add in more salt and pepper if needed, according to your taste. Cover and simmer on low until pasta is cooked.

6. Drain pasta and pour into skillet. Toss creamy sauce mixture with pasta until it is well coated and distributed evenly on all the noodles. Serve & Enjoy!

7. If any leftovers remain, refrigerate. To warm up, just add in a bit of milk or cream and heat in microwave or in non-stick skillet over low heat on stove.

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