May 16, 2010

Nom Nom - Rotini pasta with cream sauce and fresh spinach.

I like to cook and bake, and fortunately I'm not half bad at it. I've given up on being hush-hush about it since everyone who knows me found out about this within the last year, so now I'm a slave to the guys and girls in my life whose only accomplishment in the kitchen is starting a fire. In the mean time I thought I'd try to turn this into a benefit for the rest of you out there in internet land, especially you nerds out to impress your girlfriends (or maybe boyfriends).

When I cook, I typically like it to be fast a simple since I normally get home at 7:30pm from work and am just generally lazy. For the most part the dishes I share will be of that variety, but we're not talking Top Ramen fast and simple, k? Also, most importantly when it comes to cooking, once you learn a recipe, don't be afraid to improvise with it!

Rainbow Rotini with a Cream Sauce and Fresh Spinach

How I made it:

1. While boiling the water for the rotini (remember to add oil to the water so the pasta won't stick together while cooking), I started my sauce using half a quart of half and half. However, this was to match how much pasta I was making. If you're making a single serving, you'll need less half and half (unless you like a lot of sauce). If you're making very generous man portions, you may need the entire quart.

2. If you have fresh garlic, this is the time to start sautéing it in a frying pan on a low setting. It should be a slightly golden color when done. I suggest sautéing in butter since you're making a cream sauce. If you want to add any kind of meat (it should be cut up into small pieces if not using ground beef), cook it with the sautéing garlic. If you don't have fresh garlic or meat to add, skip this step.

3. Add the half and half to the sauce pan on a medium to low setting. What you want is for the liquid to reduce. What you're looking for is very noticeable evaporation (steam) and some frothing of the liquid, and you'll want this to happen for some time for a thicker cream. You'll want to continuously stir the cream so it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan. However, leaving it unattended while adding pasta to boiling water, stirring the pasta every so often, etc is okay.

4. When you feel the half and half is reduced enough for you (keep in mind that regardless of how much you've reduced it, it will still be liquidy), add in your spices. I added garlic powder, basil, and pepper. You can virtually add just about anything you want, just stop to think if you actually want to taste random spice x that night before adding it in.

5. Add in as much Parmesan cheese as you want. I do not recommend store brand or Kraft as those cheeses have a hard time breaking down and melting into the cream sauce. The cheese is basically a thickening agent, so add it in and stir until you have a thick sauce consistency. If you like extra cheesy pasta, add in additional cheese after on your own plate or bowl.

6. At this point the pasta should be done and most likely was already drained and ready to go before the cheese had finished thickening the cream sauce. I ripped up baby spinach and added it to the pot of drained pasta. The heat of the pasta and the eventual cream sauce you will pour over the entire thing will help wilt the spinach so it's more consumable. You could feasibility use a different vegetable here, but keep in mind using asparagus, broccoli, etc will necessitate cooking the vegetables separately before adding them in.

An easier way to make this dish is to use pre-made Alfredo sauce (the cream sauce described above is a modified version of my mom's Alfredo sauce), though do not hesitate to add additional spices to that as well. You are also not limited to rotini, though I recommend using one that is bite sized and thick, like penne or bow ties.

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