This was the kind of weekend that ended with pasta. A late night, two lazy days, a bit of Christmas shopping, a lung-challenging moment with some hot peppers…and by Sunday at 7pm, I was ready for a bowl of comforting spaghetti, or rotini.
Of course this is not all that surprising, given that I could eat pasta for dinner every night! There’s no other meal I find so satisfying on a daily basis, and I love how some of the best pastas actually have the shortest ingredient lists—like this creamy blue cheese number.
I shared this with Cup of Jo readers last month, but it’s one of those recipes that’s really more like a formula than a recipe, so I wanted to make sure you guy didn’t miss it over here.
I’ve always loved making mac ‘n cheese for weeknight dinners, but it wasn’t until I took a cooking course on Italian pasta during college that I discovered this formula for making a creamy and cheesy noodle dish with fewer ingredients and a simpler process than my beloved mac. Basically, you heat garlic in a little bit of olive oil, just until it’s fragrant (don’t let it brown!), then you pour in half and half and keep it warm while you boil the pasta til it’s al dente. The cream reduces, becoming saucy, without any extra thickeners. And then just before the pasta is done, you melt in some fragrant blue cheese. Voila. Done.
By throwing the cooked pasta (and spinach—so you get your greens!) right into the sauce, you allow the flavors to combine wholeheartedly, the sauce getting into all those nooks in the rotini. The whole dinner takes under 20 minutes to make, but it tastes much fancier than that.
One note about the cheese: though the dish is best when you use a blue cheese that’s really delicious, one you’d feel fine setting out on a cheese plate, the dinner will still be good with some crumbled blue from the supermarket. It’s really up to you!
Rotini with Blue Cheese & Spinach
Goat cheese works beautifully here if you’re not a blue cheese person.
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup half and half
Freshly ground pepper
¼ pound blue cheese, crumbled (a heaping ½ cup), plus a little extra for garnish
5 ounces fresh baby spinach
1/2 pound dry rotini
In a medium heavy-bottomed pot large enough to fit the pasta, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook for about 1 minute, just til the garlic is fragrant, not golden at all. Add the half and half, ½ teaspoon salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the cream thickens, stirring occasionally. Add the blue cheese to the sauce and stir to dissolve it. It’s okay if there are a few lumps.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta, and cook to al dente according to the directions on the package, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the spinach when there’s 1 minute left. Reserve ½ cup of cooking water, then drain the pasta and greens in a colander. Don’t shake out the pasta—you actually want some of the water to stick to it.
Immediately add the pasta to the pot with the sauce. Toss together, then cook over low heat for 2 minutes, until the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce. Add a little of the reserved cooking water if the sauce seems dry. Transfer to two bowls and eat, garnished with a little extra blue cheese if you like.