21 August 2011

Penne and Spinach in Cream Sauce

What could be more basic? This is my 'go-to dish' for nights when I don't feel like cooking, but want a good vegetable and some easy pasta.

The recipe comes from Jeff Smith's The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian. Poor Jeff ... consigned to the back shelf (Google the scandal if you're curious). I still say he was a hoot to watch and he made some really good dishes. Okay, that's been said ... RIP, Jeff.

Anyway, this pasta dish has a little bit of everything that I love - pasta, spinach, garlic, chili pepper flakes, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, butter, and whole milk (instead of the cream). It all gets mixed together, the lid gets put on it, the heat gets turned off, and I go play with the dogs for a while. The spices and cheese work together with the milky sauce and when I come back with a bowl and a spoon, I have a perfect pasta supper. A glass of wine and a piece of fruit for dessert ... life is, indeed, good.

Just look at that gooey goodness! Plus, I love this dish! Make it next time you want a perfect pasta fix ... really!

Penne & Spinach in Cream Sauce

a recipe from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian
Serves: 2 - 3


A scant ½ lb. penne pasta
1 lb. fresh spinach, washed and spun dry in a salad spinner
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 generous pinches red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 ½ c. whole milk or light cream
Generous pinch nutmeg
Generous pinch black pepper
Kosher salt, to taste
¾ c. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Making the Dish:
1. Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta until al dente.

2. While the pasta cooks, wash and spin out the spinach.

3. Sauté the garlic in the olive oil and then sprinkle the red pepper flakes over the golden garlic.

4. Add the spinach, reduce the heat, cover and simmer to wilt the spinach for 1 to 2 minutes. Then turn the heat off, but leave the cover on the pan.

5. In a saucepan, melt the butter, add the flour and whisk to make a roux.

6. Add the milk or cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and half the cheese. Stir to thicken the sauce.

7. When the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the pan with the spinach.

8. Pour the sauce over the pasta and spinach and toss to coat and mix the spinach into the pasta.

9. Add the other half of the cheese and taste for salt and pepper … correct seasonings, cover the pan and leave it for a bit, letting the residual heat melt the cheese into the mix and melding the spices.

10. Serve in big pasta bowls with a big soup spoon for scooping up the goodness.


  1. I think of Jeff Smith often when I cook. I don't know that I watched many episodes, but the force of his personality and enthusiasm made you remember what he said. "Don't cook with a wine you wouldn't drink" is a favorite tip from his old TV show.

  2. This is a wonderful pasta dish. JS had some wonderful family recipes. I still remember the sign-off he used at the end of his shows. "I bid you peace". Thanks for reminding me of those old programs. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  3. Love spinanch and this is a new recipe to add to my collection. Yes I remember him; he was Before the Food network.

  4. I love this, this would be The Viking's 'go to' meal... if you fancy popping over to make it for us....

  5. Oh Susan, does this ever look good!!! I've already bookmarked it. Seriously, I want to make it now!!! Spinach and cheese, yum, yum!! I will have to make this very soon, maybe even this week. Thanks!

  6. What a bowl of creamy, delicious goodness! It's packed with flavor! I always turn to pasta when I don't know what to make.

  7. Thanks for the memories of Jeff Smith. He was a staple in my TV food shows that could not be missed. BTW, I love the pasta recipe. Vickie

  8. Delicious dish - great to know it's just as good with milk instead of cream!

  9. This is just my kind of meal. How delicious. I had a similar Jamie Oliver's version of this pasta.

  10. Just coming back to say I'm making this tonight!

  11. @ Brenda- Let me know what you think! I sometimes sautee chicken pieces in a garlic black pepper, lemon and olive oil and add it for a meat-based dish.

  12. this is a seriously delicious dish...cream and spinach and pasta...what could be more comforting?


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