I made pasta because, 1) I needed something sort of easy, yet homemade. That’s always a good goal, right? And, 2) my little-itty-bitty-can’t-possibly-be-old-enough-to-do-this-sort-of-thing-eight-year-old-daughter, Lily, ran a 5K with her dad this weekend as part of an incredible program at her school called Girls on The Run. This counted as carbo-loading. This program has been exceptional in its push to form team bonds between a group of 3rd and 4th grade girls, while at the same time giving them a gateway to a lifetime sport/pastime that doesn’t require a team or competition. They are learning to build each other up and encourage each other to succeed. In a world that seems so very competitive even for perilously young ages, this collaborative athletic endeavor has been wonderful. And, I have a daughter who has no bid whatsoever for the traditional team sports. So, I have been very happy to see her enjoying this group “health and well being” activity. My mother was a marathon runner. Apparently this is a generation skipping gene. But at the end of the day, I’m just pleased as punch to see a program that is not all about winning, and clubs, and pushing towards college scholarships before kids can spell the word. This is giving my kiddo the gift of health and earned self esteem without any of the down side that is so rampant in youth sports these days.
I’m babbling. This is good pasta. Serve it with a salad and hot crusty bread. Also, using the steamed spinach method gives the pasta a “green” sort of a flavor. If you don’t actually like the taste of spinach, or you don’t want to mess with the steaming, consider using frozen (defrosted) spinach. Just make sure you squeeze all of the extra liquid out of it.
1 can (14 ounces) quartered artichoke hearts
8 ounces fresh baby spinach
8 ounces pasta (this is mezzi-rigatoni)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 can (14.5 ounces) low sodium chicken broth
½ cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Thoroughly drain the artichoke hearts and place them on a paper towel to absorb residual moisture. In batches, steam the spinach for two to three minutes and remove it to a bowl. When all of the spinach is steamed, drain the water from the bowl and place the spinach on folded paper towels to absorb residual moisture.
In a sauté pan, melt the butter and then add the flour, stirring constantly to work out any lumps. Allow the flour to cook for one minute, while stirring. Slowly add the chicken broth, while stirring to work out any lumps. Once the broth is completely incorporated and smooth, allow the sauce to simmer for three minutes. Add the cream, and again, allow the sauce to simmer for three more minutes. Add the grated Parmesan to the sauce and stir it until it is melted into the sauce. At this point, the sauce should be quite thick. If it is not, allow it to simmer for even a few more minutes, stirring often.
Chop the artichokes into smaller pieces. Chop the spinach into smaller bits. Add the artichokes and spinach to the cream sauce and stir them into the sauce until well distributed. Add the drained pasta to the sauce and stir until well incorporated.
Transfer the pasta mixture to a 9” by 13” oven-safe baking dish. Top with the mozzarella cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly and nicely browned on top.
Allow to sit for five minutes before serving. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.
This is the time of the year when daylight savings day kicks in without me noticing and then next thing I know I’m cooking dinner in a dark kitchen. My sunny summer kitchen perch is gone at 4 p.m.. I detest canned lights and flashes, but I caught myself 15 minutes into preparing this with the realization that there was no light whatsoever coming into the kitchen and that if I wanted to make a post out of this meal I had to suck it up and pull out a flash. I remember this happening last year on Donna’s Good Luck Potatoes. The photos just bummed me out (although that has turned out to be the runaway “most visited” post on PIE). I looked at the photos the next day, after a great meal, saying to myself, “OK, Kelly, is this about your ego as a photographer or is it about telling your friends about a great recipe?” Guess what? The food wins every time. But, I might have to start making dinner a little earlier. Because, I show you what I’m feeding my family. I don’t make these things for show or for the photos, though I do seriously enjoy taking pretty pictures. But, in case you haven’t figured this out yet, food blogging is most assuredly not about money. Therefore, I can’t justify re-doing a perfectly good meal just because the photos look a little bit orange. So if you come across a post in the winter time that has this goofy orange glow, you can just say to yourself, “Oooh, she must be busy running around chasing the kids and got a horribly late start on dinner.” But, rest assured, that while I sometimes publish photos that I don’t personally adore, I will not post any recipes that I don’t genuinely like.