If there is one thing I always make sure my pantry is stocked with it’s canned tomatoes. I use them in everything ( see exhibit A, B, C, D) and they are especially helpful in getting dinner ready and on the table in minimal time. This creamy spinach and tomato spaghetti is a family favorite of ours. It comes together super quickly and is great on it’s own or along side a grilled chicken breast or sliced Italian sausage.
I’m usually all about a funny side story, but my mind is totally drawing a blank right now. Is this what writer’s block is? Good grief, I don’t even know who I am anymore. Guess we’ll just go straight to the recipe and hope for a better write-up with my next post. Pasta cures all, right? At least that’s what my Italian grandmother would say if I had one. An Italian one, that is. I do have a grandma.
We start the sauce by building our first layer of flavor- caramelized onions. These will give the sauce some much needed sweetness and that tastes-like-its-been-simmering-for-hours effect.
Once your onions have cooked down and caramelized in a couple tablespoons of olive oil with some garlic cloves, toss in dried oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and sugar. Next up is adding the chicken broth and the tomatoes; you’ll need some canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and a couple tablespoons of tomato paste. If you’re like me you hate opening up a whole can of tomato of paste for only a few tablespoons. So next time you’re at the store look for tomato paste in a toothpaste-like squeeze tube. I’ve noticed quite a few store have started carrying them and they are prefect for recipes like these; squeeze out what you need and put the rest in the fridge for next time! Genius!
Bring the sauce to a simmer, add the cream cheese to the sauce in chunks and stir until the cream cheese has melted into the sauce. I’m not going to lie- it takes a little bit of work to get the cream cheese to mix in completely but if you keep at it, I promise it will. This last time I used my non-stick skillet so I couldn’t use a whisk and I was able to get it combined in about 5 minutes. If I had a silicone whisk it would have gone MUCH faster. A Note about types of cream cheese: some low-fat and all fat-free cream cheeses have stabilizers that make them extremely hard to combine with hot liquids and usually curdle. Substitute low-fat options at your own risk 🙂
Once your sauce has come together or even before, throw a pound of spaghetti into a pot and cook until al dente. Before draining the cooked pasta, reserve a cup of the hot pasta water and set aside.
Add 4 cups of fresh baby spinach to the sauce, stir until wilted and remove from the heat.
Once your pasta has been drained add it directly to the sauce, adding a little bit of the pasta water to loosen it up a bit if needed. Top with grated parmesan cheese and get ready for a plate of pasta goodness.
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1/8 tsp dried red pepper flakes
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes
- 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 C chicken broth
- 4 oz full-fat cream cheese (low-fat and fat-free have the tendency to curdle)
- 4 C fresh baby spinach
- 1 lb dry spaghetti
- In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat and cook onions and garlic until the onions are soft, lightly browned and sweet.
- Add sugar, oregano, red pepper, and salt to the onions and stir. Add tomatoes, sauce, paste, and chicken broth to the skillet and bring to a simmer.
- Cut the cream cheese into small chunks and stir into the sauce. Continue to stir until the cream cheese has completely melted into the sauce- about 5 minutes.
- Cook spaghetti according to package directions and reserve 1 C of the hot pasta water before draining. Set aside.
- Add spinach to the sauce and stir until wilted. Remove from heat and transfer the cooked spaghetti into the sauce. Toss until coated, adding in a little bit of the pasta water to loosen it up if needed.
- Serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese.
by Heather Cheney
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