THIS PASTA. You need this NOW. It was inspired by a combination of the most AMAZING Italian and French flavors I could think of, and what do you know? The result was the most AMAZING pasta dish ever. Go figure.
It’s basically mac n’ cheese taken up a level…or about ten levels. That means bacon, tender mushrooms and spinach, flavor-packed sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes, savory herbs, and a creamy, cheesy sauce that is TO DIE FOR.
Bonus! Absolutely NO heavy cream or butter required. NONE. I’m serious. So much yumminess and so much to feel good about. You can pack in whole grains, a good dose of protein, and tons of veggies while cutting back on the saturated fats in most rich pasta dishes. But the creaminess and flavor are UNREAL. Need I say more?
In goes the ridiculously easy base for the cream sauce: just 1% milk and cornstarch!
And don’t forget the cheeeeeeese! A combination of fontina and maple-smoked gouda works wonders with the flavors in this dish, but other cheeses work as well.
Toss in the penne, bacon, and some chopped chives (not sure why but I’m so in love with fresh chives).
And that’s it! Easiest meal ever that tastes like it came right out of a five-star restaurant.
- 4 oz whole grain penne
- 1/2 cup 1% milk
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 3 slices turkey bacon
- ~1/4 cup chicken broth
- 5 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1/4 cup sliced yellow onion
- 1/4 tsp dried fennel seed
- 1 tsp herbs de Provence
- pinch salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp fresh minced garlic
- 12g thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 cup spinach
- ~2 oz jarred artichoke hearts, chopped
- 3/4 oz fontina, shredded*
- 3/4 oz smoked gouda, shredded*
- 1 tsp chopped fresh chives (opt.)
- Bring a saucepan of water to a boil with a generous sprinkle salt. Add penne and cook 9-10 minutes, or according to package directions. Drain, reserving some pasta water.
- In a bowl or large measuring cup, stir together milk and cornstarch until no lumps remain.
- Meanwhile, add bacon to a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. (First coat with a little oil if necessary.) Cook on each side until crisp, then remove and set aside.
- While the skillet is still hot, add broth, mushrooms, and onion, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Sauté over medium/medium-low heat 3-4 minutes, or until tender. Stir in fennel, herbs de provence, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and a pinch salt and pepper to taste. Cook about a minute longer. Then stir in artichokes and spinach, until wilted.
- Pour milk/cornstarch mixture over veggies and gradually bring to a light simmer. Cook about 3-4 minutes, or until somewhat thickened, then remove from heat. Stir in cheeses until melted. Add pasta with a little reserved pasta water as needed to reach desired consistency. Stir in bacon and chives.
- Divide between two bowls and enjoy!
- *You can sub any combination of fontina, smoked gouda, mozzarella, provolone, asiago, or even white cheddar.