My favorite thing about this dish is how much variety there is, and it’s easy to make different proportions for different occasions.
What You’ll Need for 4-6 servings
1 small onion
4 cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound pasta (any you like — I used Ziti here)
8 ounces of spinach
Appx 30 ounces can of crushed or diced tomatoes
2/3 package cream cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Salt & pepper to taste
Optional: Basil, oregano, & red pepper flakes
Now, How to Put It All Together
I think penne works beautifully with this recipe, or ziti, which is what I used here. You can also use farfalle, spaghetti, angel hair – really, whatever you have on hand or prefer.
For the sauce: chop up your onion and your garlic. I dice my onion on the larger side. If you don’t want to be eating pieces of onion, mince it small. This is the size I prefer:
Mince your garlic into small pieces. Unlike the onion, you probably don’t want to be taking big bites of garlic! Crush with the flat side of your knife blade, peel with your fingers, and quickly mince with a knife.
Add the olive oil to a medium sized skillet. Heat your oil for about a minute on high heat and then turn it down to medium and add the onions and garlic. Tip: It’s always better to cook garlic on lower temperatures than higher.
After 3-4 minutes of simmering your onions and garlic, they should be translucent and soft – a little brown around some of the edges is fine. But you don’t want them browned through!
Add diced/crushed tomatoes. Give it a stir and add your choice of spices. You could just add salt and pepper to taste, but I also add oregano and basil for flavor, and red pepper flakes for a bit of heat.
Let your sauce simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes until it thickens. If you prefer a really thick sauce, you can also add a tablespoon of tomato paste, but I think the sauce is perfect as is.
While you wait for your sauce to thicken, get your cream cheese and parmesan ready. I like to get my cream cheese in 1-2 tablespoon size lumps – you want about 5-6 of those lumps, which is approximately 1/3 of an average package. You can either grate your parmesan or buy it pre-grated, which is what I used (avoid the powdery one in the green cylinder!).
Add the cream cheese to the sauce. I add 4 of the lumps I created first and add the extra lumps after I taste. Stir in the cream cheese on low heat until it is well combined and your sauce becomes a pale orange color. After you’ve added all the cream cheese you want, add the parmesan and stir.
When your cheese is well combined, it’s time for the final ingredient: the spinach. You don’t want to use frozen spinach for this recipe, fresh spinach is going to be much better. I like to use the ones that come in the plastic containers since the leaves are separate from the stalks. Take about 3 to 4 large handfuls and put them in the skillet.
Always put more in than you think you need, and add slowly. It wilts and cooks down a lot very quickly. At the end your sauce should look like this:
To finish, take your pasta cooked to al dente, drain it and add it to the skillet. Mix. After everything is well combined, garnish with extra grated parmesan. Now take it to that picnic!