Welcome back to pasta month on Jennyblogs!
So far we’ve seen a Thai-inspired pasta, an Italian pasta, and today an American pasta. One of the biggest differences between these cuisines is the amount of cheese used. We Americans really like our cheese! Italian cuisine uses quite a bit of cheese in certain dishes, but it’s usually a seasoned, more pungent cheese (hello, beautiful parmigiano!) used as a finishing touch. Aside from pizza, of course, but even then, their pizzas or not nearly as cheese-blanketed as an American pizza can be!
From that you’ve learned that today’s pasta is going to be cheesy…even if you’ve already learned that my posts are usually cheesy….
You’ve heard of spinach and artichoke dip? That rich, creamy, decadent dip usually found at parties served with little pieces of toast? That one you say you aren’t going to eat because it’s so high-fat, but you just can’t help yourself and end up splurging anyway? Today we’re going to make a Spinach and Artichoke PASTA. As much as I love spinach and artichoke dip, I think this pasta is even better. Plus, there is no sour cream, mayonnaise, or cream cheese involved! It’s still cheesy of course, but you can largely control how much or how little cheese you add, and the same goes for the veggies, in particularly the spinach.
For as much as I love the precision and science behind baking, I’m really coming around to cooking and how versatile it can be!
I mentioned that this Spinach Artichoke Pasta is delicious, right? I made an 8x8in pan once for lunch and my husband and I ate the WHOLE THING in one sitting. I listed the servings as 3-4 for an 8x8in / 20x20cm pan, but don’t be surprised if it becomes only 2 servings! Especially if there are men or growing children involved. Or, just double the recipe and put it in a 9x13in / 23x33cm pan. Problem solved!
Short on time? You can make this ahead of time, store in the fridge, and broil the pasta about 10 minutes before serving, OR you can serve this straight out of the pan and skip the broiling. Sprinkle the cheese on top and voila, you just saved yourself a step.
Recipe adapted from Dam* Delicious (and yes, I just censored that.)
Spinach Artichoke Pasta
4 oz / 250g (half package) penne or your choice of short pasta (my favorite are the shells for this!)
2 Tbsp / 28g oil
1/2 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp / 15g all-purpose flour
1/4 cup / 60g water, or chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup / 237g milk
about 5 oz / 150g fresh spinach, chopped
7 oz / 200g frozen or canned cooked artichoke hearts, drained/thawed and chopped
1/4 tsp nutmeg, or a few grates of fresh, if available
salt and pepper, to taste
about 2 oz / 57g fontal or other semi-soft cheese, shredded
about 2 oz / 57g parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
Ungreased 8x8in / 20x20cm pan, if you’re making this ahead of time (see step 8. and 9.)
Place a large pot of water over high heat, adding salt just before it boils. Cook the pasta al dente according to directions on package; drain.
While you’re boiling the water and cooking the pasta, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes or so, until the onion is translucent and garlic fragrant.
Add flour and stir, it will absorb all the liquid. Cook 1-2 minutes, until flour is toasted.
Slowly add in the water, stirring constantly to make a thick paste (roux), then slowly stir in milk.
Bring to a simmer to thicken the sauce; add spinach, artichokes, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until spinach has wilted and artichokes are heated through, about 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and add a generous half of the fontal and generous half of the parmesan, stir until melted.
Add the cooked pasta and stir to coat.
If serving right away, spoon onto plates and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
If serving later, transfer pasta to prepared baking dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and refrigerate. When ready to eat, place oven rack near top and broil pasta for a few minutes, or until cheese is melty and starts to turn golden.
Instead of fresh spinach you can also use frozen spinach, defrosted, drained, and chopped. Or you can use beet greens, arugula, or other cookable green of choice.
If you are watching your fat intake, feel free to reduce the cheese and use low-fat milk. On the other hand, if you love cheesy pasta and could care less about the fat, double the cheese!
Double this recipe and put in a 9x13in / 23x33cm pan!
If making ahead more than a few hours, I suggest boiling the pasta by 1-2 minutes less than indicated time, as it can become mushy sitting in the sauce. You may also need to add a bit more liquid (water, broth, or milk) to the sauce to compensate for the bit the pasta absorbs.
If you don’t know what to do with the other half can of artichokes, I suggest 1) making this dish twice within a few days, 2) doubling the recipe, or 3) using frozen artichokes or cooking them yourself so you don’t have to worry about the half can. I usually end up going for option 1, honestly, because making this once just isn’t enough.