Friday, June 22, 2012

Spinach and Ham Pasta Florentine

I'm always on the hunt for fun, easy pasta dishes that my whole family will like. And it's always a bonus if that pasta dish uses leftover ingredients. This recipe in particular was inspired by leftover ham.

I baked a ham out of the blue one day and a few days later, there was still a bit leftover. There was also some lunchmeat that was on it's last leg. I hate wasting food so I thought I would use 'reuse' both in a new way. What immediately popped into my head? A Chicken Florentine recipe that was in a cookbook my mom got many years ago from her friend who lives in California. It is a mixture of creamed spinach and ham stuffed into  a chicken breast and baked. I remember it being pretty darn tasty. (I haven't had that chicken in a very long time and I might just have to steal that cookbook from my mom so I can make it now.)

Anyways, I'm not sure why I thought of that specific dish just from ham, but it made me sort of reinvent the wheel. I took that Chicken Florentine concept and turned it into a pasta dish that didn't have a heaviness like most cream-based pasta dishes have. The use of cream cheese mixed with pasta water offers all the sauce you'll need to coat everything. Parmesan cheese adds a nice tang and saltiness to the sauce and the spinach and ham round it out. The result is a light dinner that is satisfying and full of flavor.

Spinach and Ham Pasta Florentine

1 pkg frozen spinach (9oz, thawed and drained)
1/2 lb pasta - such as rotini, penne or gemelli (I have an obsession with gemelli right now)
1/2 c diced ham (or 1/4 lb sliced deli ham cut into strips about 1/4"x 2") 
1/4 c diced onion 
1/2 TB olive oil

4 oz cream cheese (I use 1/3 less fat cream cheese)
1 TB parmesan cheese
1/2 c pasta water
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil a large pot of water.
2. Meanwhile, cut the onion and ham. 
3. Thaw and drain the spinach.
4. Add the pasta to the boiling water.
5. Cook the onion and ham in olive oil in a large pan over med heat until onions are soft.
6. Reduce heat to low and add the cream cheese and parmesan. Stir until melted.
7. Stir in the spinach.
8. When noodles are al dente, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and add them directly to the pan with the onion/ham/spinach mixture.
9. Add the pasta water: Because the noodle-type you use makes a difference in the amount of water you need, add the pasta water a little at a time to make sure you don't use too much. Add more water as necessary if it's too dry.
10. Stir until coated and thickened slightly then season with salt and pepper.

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