Friday, December 17, 2010

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta with White Beans

I'd been thinking about making something like this since before my last cold.  Whenever I see spinach and artichoke dip on a restaurant or bar menu, I think, "Mmm, spinach.  Mmm, artichoke hearts.  Cream cheese, mayo, sour cream...blech."  If they just put the spinach, artichokes and some melted Parmesan on some chips and put that in the oven for 10 minutes, I'd be a much bigger fan of the dip (even though it wouldn't really be a dip anymore).  And since we always have a bag of spinach in the fridge and a can or two of artichoke hearts in the cupboard, I finally took it upon myself to give this dish a whirl after a happy little 3-mile run through the neighborhood. 

I was also in the mood for something like a cassoulet, hence the Great Northern beans.

2 tbsp Earth Balance
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk (2%)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
8 oz. orzo pasta
6 oz. fresh spinach, rinsed and chopped
1 can artichoke hearts, drained (about 7 artichoke hearts)
1 can (15 oz.) Great Northern Beans, drained
1 cup freshly grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small saucepan, heat Earth Balance over medium-low heat until melted.  Stir in flour slowly, smoothing out any lumps.  Once it is all combined, gradually stir in the milk until incorporated.  Add salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Simmer, stirring often (don't let it burn on the bottom of the pan) until thickened, about 20 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 cup of Parmesan and stir until melted.

While the sauce is cooking down, cook the orzo according to package directions (about 9 minutes), drain and set aside (covered).

While the sauce and orzo are doing their thing, rinse and chop the spinach, drain and chop the artichoke hearts and drain the can of beans.

When the sauce and orzo are ready, combine them in the pot containing the orzo.  Add the spinach, artichoke hearts and beans and stir well.

Grease a breadloaf-sized baking dish (or use a nonstick pan) and spoon the mixture into the dish.  Top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and bake for 30 minutes.  Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.

Serves 4

This turned out really well, but I may experiment with it in the future to see if it could be made even better.  I'm wondering if adding salt and pepper to the spinach and wilting it first would have added to the flavor.  Another suggestion that Steve had was to use white wine.  Hmm...we shall see...

Everyone have a great weekend, and I look forward to seeing some of you at Strictly Running in the morning!