I made this baked pasta for The Hubs “cheat day” this weekend. It was very good, and filling, but I couldn’t help but think that something was missing. I have made lots of recipes in my day that all sound good on paper, but leave something to be desired in the finished product. These recipes are not completely devoid of value. Many of them are great jumping off points for you to be creative in the kitchen. This pasta is one such recipe.
Bethenny Frankel wrote a book called “The Skinny Girl Dish: Easy Recipes for your Naturally Thin Life” which talks a lot about not being intimidated by recipes, and feeling confident about making ingredient substitutions with what you have on hand. I am trying to be more like this in the way that I cook, but I frequently use google as my back up to reassure me that my substitutions will still taste good. I would really hate to have to completely throw out a whole meal because my over confident ego got in the way.
Anyway, I think its smart to know a lot of “basics” and then elaborate on them with whatever you may have in your fridge. Try making this pasta dish and think of it as a basic. Its like getting dressed for work. Black pants and a blue shirt are completely acceptable, but if you add a few accessories, then you really look pulled together.
Some things I think would be good added to this are (maybe not all at once):
Red pepper flakes
tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes
Other vegetables like maybe carrots and peas
Sausage or bacon
I’m sure some of these ideas will work out better than others, but I won’t know until I try them. What I do know is that the bones of my dish (pasta, cheese, spinach and lemon) always work together so I’ll feel confident that my meal will still be edible in the end.
Baked Pasta with Spinach, Lemon and Cheese recipe from Cooking Light
- 10 ounce casarecce pasta or fusilli (short twisted spaghetti)
- 1 (5-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cups chopped onion
- 1.1 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/4 cup)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup (4 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Cooking spray
- 3/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 minutes or until almost al dente, omitting salt and fat. Remove from heat; stir in spinach. Let stand for 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Drain pasta mixture well.
3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; cook 15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add flour and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly with a whisk. Gradually add milk and wine; cook 8 minutes or until sauce boils and thickens, stirring constantly. Stir in 3/4 cup cheese, salt, and rind. Remove from heat; stir in pepper. Add pasta mixture to onion mixture, and toss gently to coat.
4. Spoon the pasta mixture into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle half of panko breadcrumbs over pasta, and top evenly with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Sprinkle the remaining half of panko breadcrumbs over cheese. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until browned and bubbly.