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
- 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.
- Cook pasta according to instructions on pack, drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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