After consuming roughly 10 lbs of sugar while making M's 3rd birthday sushi cake last week (in case you missed it), it was time for a reset. Feels like the 100th reset of the year already, no? Anyway, BALANCE.
So, I don't just like creamed spinach, I like, like creamed spinach. And I won't try to convince you that creamed spinach made without cream is the same thing. Hence, why I'm not calling this "creamed spinach pasta." But when I had the urge to make creamed spinach and mix in some pasta for a hearty and meatless dinner, I thought, maybe I can go one further and skip the cream altogether. Because, you know, the 10 lbs of sugar.
I started out with the Food52 Cauliflower Carbonara that surfaced a few months ago. This sauce is also delicious in its own right, but I would not compare it to high octane carbonara (though it's an excellent way to get loads of vegetables into your child if you're into that sort of thing). I thought that the cauliflower flavor would be too strong to conceivably substitute for cream and I was right.
Then I gave this Bean-Creamed Spinach recipe on Epicurious a shot. A few tweaks later and we have a lively sauce that uses minimal dairy and even less meat. I used chicken broth because that's what we usually have on hand, but subbing in a vegetable broth would be perfectly fine.
I'm not sure you can really omit the cheese entirely because, to me, it rounds out the flavor. But if you use vegan cheese or nutritional yeast regularly, feel free to sub in some of those for the Asiago and Parmesan.
A note about pre-cooking the spinach: I find that when I cook spinach in whatever sauce it will eventually be covered with, I get a strange spinach-y film on my teeth that is wholly unappetizing. For whatever reason, wilting the spinach first and pressing out the excess water avoids the film and makes the dish taste much better. In my opinion, entirely worth the extra 10 minutes.
Creamed spinach pasta
1 lb baby spinach
2 large cloves garlic
½ large onion
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 can/box of white beans
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp Aleppo pepper or paprika
½ tsp mustard powder
1 tsp lemon juice (or the juice of ½ small lemon)
1 lb dry pasta
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup Asiago cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
If needed, give your spinach a quick rinse. Place all of the spinach in a second large pot and start to wilt over medium heat. Give the spinach a few stirs to make sure it wilts evenly. This usually takes me about 10 minutes.
While wilting your spinach, give the onions and garlic a rough chop. You’ll puree these later, so don’t worry about mincing. Open, rinse, and drain your can of beans and measure out your stock.
When all of the spinach is wilted, turn the greens out onto a dishtowel or a few paper towels. This spinach is hot and we want this meal to be done quickly, so I like to add another dishtowel or a few more paper towels on top of the spinach and then weigh it down with a kettle or heavy pot. While you cook everything else, the spinach drains.
Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil to your now empty large pot. Over medium heat, sauté the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the beans and give a few stirs. Add the stock and season with salt and pepper. Turn the flame to medium high and bring the stock to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half.
While the liquid is reducing, give your drained spinach a rough chop. Set aside. If you haven't already, start cooking your pasta.
When the stock has reduced by half, add the Aleppo pepper (or paprika) and the mustard powder. Puree the stock and white bean mixture with either a very strong immersion blender or in a regular blender. Return to the pan. Mix in the cooked spinach. Add the cooked and drained pasta and the cheeses and stir well to combine. Taste for seasoning.
Yield: 9 cups