4 March 2010

Whole wheat penne in spinach sauce

I love penne and my husband loves spaghetti. Penne because, i like how the pasta gets the sauce inside the tubes - the ridges hold on to the sauce. Since I am the resident chef of our home, you'll find penne being the most-often cooked pasta. We love saucy sauces - well you know what I mean, more stuff around the pasta, instead of the dry pasta dish. We both love aglio-olio, where minimalism is the key, just good olive oil, garlic and chilli flakes - but that said, we do love the saucier versions better. Sometimes you'll find more veggies than the pasta in our dishes and we like it that way too.
This luscious spinach sauce was a result of me going overboard last week in the farmers' market. When you get 12 bunches for Rs.10, you can't really blame me can you? I washed, cleaned and cooked the leaves, pureed them and put the stuff in the freezer. It was a smart move, reducing a big bag of greens into a small container, besides cooking and freezing the leaves when they were at their freshest.

So when the day came to make the pasta, most of the work for the spinach sauce was already done - what remained was to pulse it with some fresh paneer and chillies and it was ready. It is indeed as simple as that.

Let me also assure you that I have not used any of my non-existent photoshop skills on this pic - the sauce is as green as it is seen in the picture and it looks like that even as I am about to eat it from the plate - no fooling you on that!

Recipe for Penne in Spinach Sauce
Serves 3-4 with a salad or a vegetable side dish

2 cups whole wheat penne pasta
Roughly 3/4 kg spinach, leaves and tender stems plucked
1 tsp olive oil
4-8 cloves garlic, peeled (4 if large, 8 if small)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
2 green chillies
1/3rd cup paneer or ricotta cheese (I made fresh paneer from 1/2 litre milk, using white vinegar)
Salt to taste

  1. Making spinach puree -Wash the plucked spinach leaves and tender stems 4-5 times in a clean sink of water or in a large tub. Dry over kitchen towels. Put these into a large pot. Add 1/2 tsp sugar, 1/2 cup water and let the leaves wilt. Toss around so the leaves are evenly cooked. Remove from pot, and puree along with any residual water. This can be frozen for upto a week and used as necessary. 3/4 kg of spinach will yield roughly 2 cup of spinach puree.
  2. Cook pasta according to instructions on pack, drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
  3. Making paneer - Bring 1/2 L cow's milk to boil. When it comes to a boil, reduce heat and add from 1-2 tsp of white vinegar, stirring around till the milk curdles leaving a clear whey. Filter out pressing lightly. Reserve the whey for use in soups or to make dough for chapatis or bread.
  4. In a wok, heat 1-2 tsp olive oil. Throw in the crushed garlic cloves and sliced onions. Saute on medium flame for 2-3 minutes till soft.
  5. In a blender, puree together the spinach puree, paneer, sauteed onion-garlic, oregano, salt and chillies. Check for salt and adjust. This is your spinach sauce for the pasta.
  6. In a large wok, bring together cooked pasta and the sauce, mixing gently till pasta is fully covered. Use some of the reserved pasta water if you want to thin down the sauce. Add freshly ground black pepper over the top, any fresh or dried herbs of your choice and serve.
I served this with cauliflower baked in tomato sauce, recipe of which will be posted shortly.

  • You can serve with some cheese grated on the top, this will gain most kids' approval :)
  • The sauce can be made minus the paneer but I used so as to up the protein quotient of the dish. You could use ricotta cheese from a tub to cut down on the preparation time or use store bought paneer.
  • Some steamed corn added to this pasta will add lovely colour and a sweet crunch to the dish.
If you like spaghetti and your partner likes penne, by all means use spaghetti for this dish!! 

Since there is a perfect event to enlist this recipe, it's going for the Healing Foods event at My Culinary Experiments started by Siri's Corner


Raaga said...

Nice... we cook all sorts of pasta shapes all the time (and I don't bother to pair the sauce and pasta according to rules etc).

I also cook, puree and free spinach when it is in season. Helps save many weeknight meals for me.

I have a similar pasta dish on my blog: http://chefatwork.blogspot.com/2008/11/penne-in-corn-spinach-sauce.html


J said...

lovely green.. very nutritious

Nupur said...

Whoa- you are definitely eating your greens! Spinach and paneer are a match made in culinary heaven.

Latha said...

Love the bright green color. Looks healthy and delicious.

BangaloreBaker said...

Looks good.

Anjali said...

The pasta looks nice n juicy Nandita.

angee said...

lovely green pasta..looks nice and healthy too..

Jayashree said...

Gorgeous colour. u got 12 bunches for Rs 10??? You've just burst my bubble....I thought I had a bargain today - getting a bunch for 4 Rs.

Miri said...

I guess its our Indianness - we like our pastas in a lot of sauce and our Chinese dishes as well!!

Long time since I did the spinach sauce with pasta - thanks for the recipe. Have you tried pumpkin roasted and pureed? its amazing as a pasta sauce

DEESHA said...

i love penne pasta, never hadit with spinach sauce though, good one

Anonymous said...

This is a great reciuipe. I tried it last night for dinner & it was delicious. Panner gives a nice creamy texture without adding the fat. I also added some nuts while blending the sauce jsut like making a pesto. - Deepa

Nandita Iyer said...

Raaga - checked out your link - try it with paneer next time, you'll like it.

Nupur - you right about that - this is palak paneer and roti in another avatar i guess- trying to stock up on the greens in our diet :)

Angee, ANjali, Latha, BBaker, J - thanks - hope you try it and liek it

Jayashree- sorry to burst your bubble, but this was from the farmers' market, a one off visit, regularly its some 5 to a bunch :)

Miri - i hadn't thought on that line, you are right I guess about Indians liking things more saucy :)

Thanks Deesha

Glad you tried it and liked it Deepa - you are right about the creamy texture - i was happy that it increased the protein content of the dish without much added fat unlike cream.

Chitra said...

wow the color is amazing and looks really delicious.

Jyoti said...

hey..! i made this for dinner today..loved the penne..somehow the cauliflower bake did not come out as expected :( maybe another try and I'll get it right..

The panner gave the spinach sauce an amazing texture..look forward to more such recipes :)

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