Pasta in Spinach and Béchamel Sauce Recipe:
Penne rigate in a thick spinach and white sauce topped with cherry tomatoes, healthy & delicious!!
The Sunday brunch took another leap to become a delicious balance of health and taste in one today yesterday (had all intentions of posting it yesterday itself, but alas!). This spinach and béchamel sauce based Penne rigate was absolutely delicious, and that fancy ‘béchamel’ term is only for tashan (style) for it is nothing but what we know as the white sauce. And if I’d ever be serving it in my fancy restaurant (in my dreams eh!) I’d like to call it Penne Spinachio in béchamel sauce, how imposing.
My Sunday pasta affair began a couple of years back when I was putting up with my favourite maternal Uncle and Aunt (Mama –Mami as we call them here) during my internship days after college. Sundays would be the lazy day after a hectic week for us, for mama and me a break from office, for mami it’d mean a break from the daily household grind and for my cousins it would be a break too, the days at school is no less than a race these days. Anyhow, so after a late morning followed by a quick breakfast of flakes and milk, it was almost a ritual that mama would be cooking us some experimental lunch. Almost every other Sunday it would be some pasta that he so loved to cook, and I can still remember the care and patience he had in the kitchen. He’d never overcook the vegetables (unlike we commonly do in our Indian kitchens), add some Chinese sauces (that should explain the word ‘experiment’), perfectly cook pasta (al dente’), make a creamy cheesy sauce and serve it separately for he was way too health conscious to simply add it to the pasta. Every time without fail his food would turn out delicious and we’d all lick our fingers clean, it was fun and family. I have always loved and admired my Mama as a hero since my childhood, for the sheer simplicity and honesty of his character despite being such a high ranked officer in a govt deptt; and mami ofcourse for being so pretty that as a child I would often sneak into her room on a mission to find the magical cosmetics (potion) that I was almost sure she used, though it took me quite a many years to realise that the ‘true beauty she is, isn’t just skin deep’.
Sorry for digressing, the point is that the pasta magic continues to linger on my memory even today and comes to life on Sunday. So I cooked this delicious brunch for two, the beauty of the recipe being that you may cook it with almost any pasta and even add some basic veggies like bell peppers, or broccoli or mushrooms to your liking, I although decided to keep it basic and simple with just a few cherry tomatoes on the top. Read on to find the recipe that’s highly recommended, for the absolute balance of its flavours.
Ingredients (Serves 2):
- 1 cup penne pasta
- 100 gms spinach leaves
- 3-4 cloves of garlic (or less if u do not like garlic)
- 2 tbsp grated cheese (parmesan)
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to dress
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 1 cube butter
- 1 and ¼ cup milk
- Salt and pepper to dress
- Red paprika flakes
- Fresh spring of basil
- A handful of cherry tomatoes, cut to half
- Some extra grated parmesan
- Cook pasta as per the instruction on the pack till al dente, strain and keep aside.
- Now soak the cleaned spinach leaves in a hot water with a little salt for 3-4 mins, immediately remove and transfer to an ice water bath. Finally strain, add crushed garlic, grated cheese, a tsp of olive oil and make a thick paste using the food processor.
- In a thick bottom pan add the flour and butter and fry on a slow flame, do not let the colour change, just fry for 3-4 mins to incorporate the butter and flour together using a pointed spoon. Now gradually add a little milk at a time while continuously stirring the mixture with a balloon whisk. You may use a handheld electric whisk if required to smooth out any lumps that may form.
- Allow to simmer for approx 5 mins and dress with salt and pepper. Now add the entire pasta and mix well. And then add the spinach paste, stir well and turn off the heat. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve warm topped up with cherry tomatoes, some cheese shavings, paprika flakes, a spring of basil and some fine extra virgin olive oil. Bon Appetite!
Dos and Don’ts:
- Make sure to continuously whisk the sauce while adding milk to avoid lumps in the white sauce.
- You may add extra veggies, either smoke, boil or fry them and stir into the pasta before serving.
- This tastes good chilled too, store in the fridge and enjoy for upto 2 days.
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