Easy wins again!
I’m on day 6 of an 8 day work week, so that means two things: I’m tired and I’m hungry. Quick skillet pasta dishes like this Creamy Tomato & Spinach Pasta are perfect for such an occasion. They require only a few ingredients, cook up super fast, and leave me feeling full and happy! :)
This version uses just a touch of cream cheese and Parmesan to make a regular tomato sauce ultra rich and creamy. If you’re not into cream cheese, you could also add a splash (1/4 cup or so) of half and half to achieve a similar effect. I used regular pasta, but whole wheat would actually be pretty good in this and would add some extra fiber and nutrients to make it a more well rounded meal. I was lucky enough to get spinach on sale for $0.99 per bag (score!), but if fresh spinach is just out of your price range, this would also be really good with sliced mushrooms. Just cook the mushrooms along with the onions and garlic in the beginning. Or, hey, you could always do a plain creamy tomato sauce. Nothin’ wrong with that!
Anyway, tomorrow is Monday (again) and the week will be long, so I hope this recipe helps make dinner time a little faster, easier, and more enjoyable for you this week! Enjoy!
Creamy Tomato & Spinach Pasta
- 1 Tbsp olive oil $0.16
- 1 small onion $0.25
- 2 cloves garlic $0.16
- 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes $0.59
- ½ tsp dried oregano $0.03
- ½ tsp dried basil $0.03
- pinch red pepper flakes (optional) $0.02
- freshly cracked pepper to taste $0.05
- ½ tsp salt $0.03
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste $0.11
- 2 oz. cream cheese $0.48
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan $0.42
- ½ lb. penne pasta $0.89
- ½ (9 oz.) bag fresh spinach $0.50
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender (7-10) minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander.
- While waiting for the pasta to cook, dice the onion and mince the garlic. Cook both in a large skillet with the olive oil over medium-low heat until softened and transparent (about 5 minutes).
- Add the diced tomatoes (with juices), oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper to the skillet with the onions and garlic. Stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and a ½ cup of water to the skillet and stir until the tomato paste is dissolved into the sauce.
- Turn the heat down to low. Cut the cream cheese into a few pieces and then add them to the skillet with the tomato sauce. Use a whisk to stir the sauce until the cream cheese has fully melted in and the sauce is creamy. Add half of the Parmesan to the skillet and whisk until it is melted in. Add the remainder of the parmesan and whisk until melted in again.
- Add the fresh spinach and gently stir it into the sauce until it has wilted (3-5 minutes). Add the pasta and stir until it is well coated in the creamy tomato sauce. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm.
Step by Step Photos
Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil so that the pasta can cook while you prepare the sauce. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Cook them both in a skillet with the olive oil over medium-low heat until they are soft and transparent.
Once the onions have softened, add the can of diced tomatoes (with the juices), dried oregano, dried basil, red pepper flakes, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper, then stir it all together.
I wanted it a little “saucier” so I also added 2 Tbsp of tomato paste and about 1/2 cup of water. This is what it looked like *after* adding the tomato paste and water.
I have to pause for a second to tell you a crazy story. This is the second can opener in the past month that has spontaneously stopped working. It works one day and then the next thing I know the gears suddenly don’t match up, it won’t clamp on the can correctly, and when it finally does start to cut, it cuts through the side rather than the top of the can. I broke a sweat opening this can of tomato paste and finally had to use a fork to pry it open just enough to scoop some out. Weird, right? Hopefully the third can opener will be a winner.
Anyway, at some point the water will be boiling, so you can add the pasta and let that cook while you finish the sauce.
Turn the heat under the skillet down to low. Cut the cream cheese into a few chunks and then add it to the skillet with the sauce. Use a whisk to stir it in as it melts…
It will look kind of chunky or grainy at first, but just keep stirring…
Eventually it will begin to melt in and get all creamy and delicious. Once the cream cheese is melted in, add about half of the Parmesan and stir it until it is melted in. Add the second half and stir until melted in again.
And gently stir it in until it has wilted. This can get kinda messy, so stir gently so that the spinach doesn’t fly out of the skillet.
Finally, add the cooked and DRAINED pasta. You can use any shape, but I like a tubular pasta the best because the sauce gets all up inside those holes and makes it SO good. My next choice would have been bow-tie pasta.