An easy weeknight staple

19 Feb

Every home cook needs a go-to staple dish that can be whipped up in a flash, with (ideally) very simple ingredients. As I was scratching my head for topics to write about, I thought that writing a little ditty in honor of my weeknight staple was long overdue. At least once a week, I rely on this simple lightened up Fettucini Alfredo from Cooking Light circa January 2010. It was cookbook binder-worthy at first glance. Of course, the straight-forward recipe is delicious as is, but I take advantage of it’s “blank-slate” nature by add my own twists. Such twists involve whatever vegetables – fresh or frozen – that I happen to have or want to include. That is what I love so much about this one-pot wonder (well, two if you count the pasta pot): you can make it seem like a really robust dish by adding bulk from the vegetables. As a rule of thumb, I add frozen vegetables just before adding the pasta to the sauce. Fresh greens like kale and spinach wilt quickly in the sauce once the pasta has been added. You can play around with it and, oh, and that’s the other thing: you can use ANY pasta shape of your choice – short or long. I have even tried this with brown rice pasta. And, if you are vegetarian or do not eat pork, the bacon can be omitted. This, like most pasta dishes, tastes even better the next day for lunchtime leftovers.

Some of my favorite add-ins: fresh baby spinach (see recipe below); frozen whole spinach; thyme-roasted butternut squash; fresh kale; frozen green peas; fresh or frozen broccoli; frozen artichokes; cherry tomatoes

Rigatoni Alfredo with Wilted Spinach and Bacon (adapted from Cookling Light, January 2010) 

Serves 6-8



1lb box of pasta (rigatoni, fettucini, linguine, penne)
4 slices bacon, chopped roughly
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
1/4 cup half-and-half
2/3 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 7-ounce bag fresh baby spinach

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.

While pasta cooks, add bacon to a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings. Add garlic to drippings in pan; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Sprinkle flour over garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk and cream, stirring constantly; cook 2 minutes or until bubbly and slightly thick, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Gradually add cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in salt and reserved 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Add hot pasta to pan; toss well to combine. Add baby spinach in 3 batches, cover pan with lid to promote wilting. Sprinkle with bacon, parsley, pepper and additional cheese if desired. Remove from heat and serve immediately.


2 Responses to “An easy weeknight staple”

  1. jean Robinson February 19, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    very good and so easy

  2. mom February 19, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    sounds just delicious and looks yummy

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