Creamy Tomato + Spinach Pasta

Ahh…family dinner time.  What a wonderful concept, right? A gathering of your most loved ones around the table eating a healthy, delicious meal with fuzzily loving conversations going on.  This happens every night in your home, right?! Sure, in theory, this is wonderful. But what I’ve learned as a new mom is that getting together a family dinner that is nutritious, delicious, easy/fast, and affordable is…well…it’s not always so feasible. Or, at least, I don’t always have the energy for it.  I’d love to think I could be that mom who could whip up together an amazing meal my family fawns over every night, but I’m not.  When I’ve had a particularly rough day, sometimes the food bar at Whole Foods will just have to do (hey, at least it isn’t fast food, right?!).  However, there are those few tricks up my sleeve that I can pull out on those days I have the energy to pull together such a meal.  Pasta is always a safe bet in most households.  You probably have all the ingredients you need in your pantry at any given time to make this quick pasta dish.

Delicious? ✓

Nutritious? ✓

Fast & Easy? ✓

Affordable? ✓ (In fact, I priced out this dish, and it comes out to roughly $0.90/serving!)

Did those check marks pique your interest?  If so, then let’s get started, shall we?

What You’ll Need:

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced (minimum 4 cloves! Throw in more, like we did, if you love garlic!)

1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 Teaspoon dried basil

Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

Fresh cracked black pepper

Pinch of salt

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

2 ounces Mascarpone cheese **

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1/2 pound of Penne Pasta

A big bunch of fresh spinach (about 9 ounces or so)

What You’ll Do:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the penne and cook until tender (or according to your package directions).  Drain the pasta.  While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and cook the diced onion and minced garlic until translucent – about 5 minutes.

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Add the diced tomatoes, with the juices, oregano, basil, red pepper, salt, and black pepper to the skillet.  Stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and 1/2 cup of water. Stir until the tomato paste is dissolved.

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Add the mascarpone cheese to the skillet.  Turn your heat down to a medium-low.  To help this go a bit faster, you can use a whisk to stir the sauce until the mascarpone has fully melted in and the sauce is creamy.  Add half of your Parmesan to the skillet and whisk again until it is melted.  Add the rest of the cheese in and whisk again.  Add the fresh spinach and gently stir until the spinach has wilted. Don’t forget it will look like a LOT of spinach at first, but spinach wilts down considerably!

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Add the pasta and stir until everything is well coated in the sauce.  Salt & pepper as needed.

**VARIATIONS**

If for some reason you don’t like mascarpone cheese (huh?!) or simply can’t find it, you can substitute cream cheese, which is a bit denser and creamier.

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Tonight, we served up our dish with a hearty side of sauteed tomatoes (simply sautee the cherry tomatoes in olive oil and garlic until they blister and turn soft).  So yummy!

dinner

This dish is not only chock full of healthy veggies/fruits, it is also a great affordable family meal that Tastes Oh-So-Good!

~ M ~

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