While some long to slide out of their shoes and too-tight work pants when they get home from a day at the office, I long to get in the kitchen. Busy evenings are my muse, along with pancakes, ice cream, and freshly-washed strawberries. Other topics for other days, I suppose.
So upon returning from a particularly busy day at the office, I checked the “dinner menu” hanging on the fridge as it were, and saw I’d written “shrimp pasta” on Tuesday. And who am I to go back on my word? Pasta it was.
Confession: I’ve used jarred sauces on my pasta before. Cue: shrill cries, eye rolls and stone throwing. Yada yada yada. But you have to admit, on occasion convenience wins over quality, just like every morning in high school when a pack of chocolate donut gems won over eggs and toast. Time, is, money.
Until I perfected this recipe, I went the convenience route when it came to my pasta. But once you’ve tasted homemade, you’ll never go back. In addition to this version taking only 15 minutes or less to throw together, it also requires no butter, no cream and packs a ton of delicious and zesty flavor from parmesan cheese, garlic, pesto and a pinch of red pepper flake.
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 1/2 cup veggie broth
- 2-4 Tbsp flour
- 1/4 each tsp salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tbsp pesto (I used basil)
- optional: healthy pinch red pepper flake
- 1 ciabatta bread roll
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp garlic powder (or fresh garlic)
- sprinkle of mozzarella and parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C).
- Heat medium to large saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add olive oil and garlic, stirring quickly to ensure it doesn't burn.
- Next, add milk and veggie broth and stir.
- Then, begin adding 1 Tbsp of flour at a time, stirring with a whisk to reduce clumps. I recommend starting with 2-3 Tbsp and adding more later if needed. You can also thicken with extra parmesan cheese.
- Add salt, pepper, red pepper flake, pesto, cheese and stir.
- Reduce heat slightly and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you notice the sauce is too thin, add a little more flour. If too thick, add a little more milk.
- In the meantime, split your ciabatta roll in half and butter lightly. Slice it into thick strips, add the parmesan, garlic powder and mozzarella and place in the oven on a baking sheet.
- Watch closely - it should only take 5 minutes to toast up. Remove from oven when lightly browned and cheese is melted.
- If you have clumps in your sauce at this point (I usually have a few), pour mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. Then return to saucepan, add your favorite pasta, toss and serve immediately.
Nutrition for 1/3 of sauce: 182 calories, 10 g fat, 3 g sat. fat, 4.5 g sugar, 14 g carbs, 7.9 g protein
Nutrition for 1 slice ciabatta (8 servings): 43 calories, 3.5 g fat, 1.9 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein.
I crave this recipe at least once a week, and for good reason. It’s creamy, flavorful, cheesy and surprisingly healthy. My favorite pastas to serve it with are penne and linguini, but it really could go with just about any shape. Of course, meat is optional, but I find chicken or shrimp the perfect additions to this dish to add a bit more protein.