Monday, March 2, 2020

Spinach And Pasta.

Ahhhh...  Pastahhhhhhh...

I wanted some comfort food.
 I was thinking of mac 'n' cheese, 
but decided to do a more adult version of this favorite.
 And here it is - rigatoni and spinach.  With lots of cheese!
It appealed to the adult in me.
It appealed to the child in me.
My family liked it.
It was a hands-down success.

Here's what you need:
4 cups spinach, stems removed
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped dill
a few scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. rigatoni
2 TB unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves
1/2 package cream cheese (4 oz.)
3 oz. (give or take) mozzarella, grated
3 oz. (give or take) feta, crumbled

Note:  All my measurements are haphazard.  Close enough for government work.  So go with whatever you like here.
I happen to have big pots of dill on my deck, so I thought I'd throw that in, along with the feta, for a nice spanakopita vibe.  And it works!

Here's a quick run-down of what to do, then I have the step-by-steps for you.
And we're dealing with pasta and cheese, so nothing's etched in stone.

Here's what you do:

Heat oven to 450° and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 
In a medium bowl, drop in the spinach and sprinkle with swirl of olive oil and a shake of kosher salt and a grind or two of pepper.  Give the spinach a bit of massage to wilt it, then set aside.

Cook pasta in salted boiling water about 2 minutes shy of recommended cook time.  You want it barely al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add scallions and sauté for a couple of minutes, then add garlic and stir for a minute, then the cream cheese with a little salt.  Squish around with a wooden spatula to break up cream cheese, then pour in reserved pasta water and stir until smooth.  Stir in the spinach,  half the mozzarella, half the feta, and the pasta until combined.  Taste test and adjust salt and pepper if needed.  Pour pasta mixture into a buttered 8-inch square baking dish and top with remaining mozzarella and feta.  Bake in a 450° oven about 12 minutes, or until sauce is nice and thick and bubbly and the top is starting to brown.

For the step-by-steps:

Add sliced scallion into buttery skillet.
After a few minutes of sautéing the scallions, add the minced garlic and cook for a minute.
Always be careful sautéing garlic.  It's easy to burn if you're not careful and then it gets quite bitter.  So do NOT burn your garlic.

You want the rigatoni just barely al dente.
And remember to save some of that pasta water - 1/2 cup or so.

Now, the first time I made this dish, I used all spinach for the greens.
The second time, I added in some Swiss chard. 
Arugula would be nice and peppery for this.  
Kale would work, too.
You can experiment.
Just remember to massage the greens a bit with a little splash of olive oil along with some salt and pepper.  You want them a bit wilted.

Add cream cheese to the scallions and garlic in the skillet, chunk it up a bit, then pour in the starchy pasta water.

Stir to melt until it's nice and smooth.

Add in your greens.

Add in half of cheeses and stir to combine.

Lookin' good.

Pour in the pasta.

I'm using rigatoni because I want a tubular pasta to catch all that green and creamy and cheesy goodness.

Stir to combine and coat.

Pour into a buttered baking dish and top with remaining cheeses.

Ready for baking.

You want it nice a bubbly and browning on top.

Cheesy, creamy, gooey goodness.

I just took your basic man 'n' cheese and amped it up.

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