…and I’m not talking about Easy Mac.
A year or so ago, we went out to a Greek restaurant for dinner. I love Greek food so I was really stoked. I ordered a pasta dish with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, etc etc etc … a bunch of veggies and stuff. When it came, I was a little disappointed. It was good, but kind of on the boring side. Literally nothing but pasta and some veggies. And there’s nothing wrong with veggies, but I was hoping for a little more flavor … and it cost $15. $15! So I said to myself, “I could totally make this at home … and it would be way better … and it would cost way less.” So the pasta was kind of a disappointment, but for dessert we tried their baklava and it was so incredibly good — better than any I’ve tasted before or since — that all was forgiven.
Fast forward to last night. I finally got around to seeing if I could actually make a similar pasta dish that was better and cheaper than the restaurant’s version. I was pretty sure I could …. and I was right.
Just a wee lil’ disclaimer before we begin. I’m not really into measuring when I cook (unless I’m baking), and I’m REALLY not into measuring when I’m just making things up as I go along. Which I definitely was doing with this recipe. So while I have included fairly exact amounts in this recipe, I certainly didn’t cook it in an exact way, so if you decide you want more or less cheese or something, go for it. It’s all good. Also, this recipe is for two people.
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cups fresh baby spinach
1 small tomato, seeded and chopped
¼ cup shredded parmesan
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups hot cooked penne pasta
Start out by putting a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, film a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium heat. I used a nonstick skillet cause that’s what I have, and it worked great. Toss the minced garlic into the oil and cook for a few minutes until the garlic is starting to turn golden. Add the mushrooms and cook until almost soft. Throw in the spinach (add extra oil if needed) and cook for a few more minutes until the spinach starts to wilt. Add salt and pepper as desired. (And please, please, PLEASE use freshly ground pepper!!)
Now your pasta should be done, so whip out your colander, drain the pasta thoroughly and then toss it into the skillet with the vegetables (which should still be over low to medium heat). Drizzle in some more olive oil and add salt and pepper to your taste. Don’t be stingy with the oil …. it’s what holds everything together, and it provides a lot of the flavor in this dish. Plus it’s good for you! :)
Add the chopped tomatoes and shredded cheese to the pasta and stir to combine, then take off the heat. You don’t want to cook the tomato because the small pieces of raw tomato are a nice contrast to all the other ingredients which are cooked. And you don’t want the cheese to get all Silly String on you — some meltiness is great, just not too much. (Speaking of cheese: it’s really important to use shredded Parmesan, not that powdery grated stuff that tastes like you licked the dryer lint trap. I can’t afford the wedges of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese that cost $16, so I buy containers of Parmesan that cost $3 or $4, but it’s still worlds better than that awful grated stuff.)
Now just put the pasta on the plates and add a sprinkle of cheese, maybe some more pepper, and it’s ready to serve. When I made this, I warmed the plates in the oven for a few minutes while I was putting the meal together, and that kept the pasta from cooling off too fast once it was served.
There ya go. Fast, easy, healthy, vegetarian, and really, really good. You gotta try it. The only problem with this recipe is that it doesn’t have a name yet. I don’t want to call it “Pasta That Is Definitely Not Boring” or “Pasta That Would Put the Chef of a Certain Greek Restaurant to Shame”, but I can’t think of anything else. Suggestions?