I just finished rereading Judith Jones’ charming memoir, The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food. Her conviction that we continue to cook, even if we’re the only one at the dinner table, inspired me to pull out an old Moosewood Collective cookbook and whip up this tasty little pasta (carb cravings!), Penne with Creamy Walnut Sauce.
This cookbook, Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites, was one of – if not the – first cookbook I ever bought for myself. This was in the late ’90’s, during my low-fat cooking craze, and while my other low-fat cookbooks from those days now grace the shelves of the local Goodwill, this one has stayed with me throughout the years.
Growing up, I was a picky eater (aren’t we all?). So imagine my surprise when I found a dish that I liked, but my husband didn’t. Not only that, but my mother and step-father, who love everything, really couldn’t stand this one. That’s not to say it isn’t good, it’s just different I suppose, but in a fabulous way.
The cottage cheese, which on its own I will not eat, becomes a rich, creamy shroud rendered green by the vibrant fresh spinach that’s lightly steamed before processing. The fresh garlic, hidden in this bite, but maybe not that one, gives a punch every so often. And the walnuts add a crunch and earthiness to complete the taste, one of my favorites when I’ve got to have carbs and spaghetti with simple tomato sauce won’t do.
But back to Mrs. Jones. For years, this was my go-to dish when my husband was out of town, something of a treat for myself after a long day at work (it’s super-fast to whip up). So when he told me he’d be home late the other night I raced to the market and grabbed fresh spinach, a tub of cottage cheese and a nice zinfandel to go with it (purists may scoff at this wine pairing; let them). Et voila! A luxurious, simple dinner for one, with a toast to Mrs. Jones.
Gluten-free update: Use your favorite gluten-free pasta in this recipe. If you haven’t had luck with gluten-free pasta, see this post at Gluten-Free Girl for making a perfect pot of gluten-free pasta.
Pasta with Creamy Spinach & Walnut Sauce
10 oz. fresh spinach
½ cup walnuts, chopped
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 lb. gluten-free rotini (or other short pasta)
- Boil water, plus a hearty dash of salt, in a large pot. Once the water is good and boiling, toss in the pasta.
- Meanwhile, wash the spinach (but don’t dry it, you need the moisture to steam the spinach) and drop into a large skillet or pot. Heat covered over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, until bright green and wilted. Drain well, taking caution to not burn yourself.
- Combine everything (except the pasta!) in a food processor and pulse until smooth, working in batches if need be.
- Once the pasta is done, drain and return to its pot. Add the creamy spinach sauce and combine, stirring gently.
- Serve immediately. Pass with fresh Parmesan cheese and salt.
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites.