Cheesy Pasta with Tomato and Spinach
                                                                                            contributed by the AICR

Here's another dish that we classify as "comfort food"
 - so tasty and easy to prepare...

Cheesy Pasta with Tomato and Spinach is a favorite.  So much so that we view it as another one of those "comfort food" dishes - you know, the kind that is easy enough to make but is so satisfying and delicious.  At the time you're thinking, "I could eat this every night!" And with this cheesy pasta recipe you might just be tempted to do that - but don't! There are just too many other great recipes to settle forever on one or two. Try them all!

In the meantime, as you investigate all of our other delicious recipes this pasta dish with tomato and spinach will keep you satisfied!

One of the things we really love about this dish is the addition of pine nuts!  I think this may have been one of the first recipes we made that called for pine nuts. Up to that point we were pretty much oblivious to those tasty little treats.  But since then, we include pine nuts in a lot of our recipes. They seem to go particularly well with pasta recipes. Watch for them in some of our other dishes or create one yourself and use them!

Pine nuts are actually seeds that grow under the scales of pine cones.  There are about 20 types of pine trees that actually produce seeds large enough to make it worthwhile harvesting them. Pine nuts were actually a critical food source for some Native American tribal people and, in fact, some tribes have exclusive rights to pine nut harvests depending on their location.  Like other "nuts" these seeds are very nutritious, providing iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, thiamine, riboflavin,  niacin, folate, choline and vitamin E!

So enjoy the cheesy pasta, the tomatoes and the spinach but don't skip adding the pine nuts!  They are delicious!

Cheesy Pasta with Spinach and Tomato


2 Tbsp. pine nuts
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup red onion, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 cups cooked whole-wheat macaroni
2 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. freshly grated Romano cheese
Pinch of crushed red pepper, optional
Pinch of dried basil, optional

How we make it

Toast pine nuts in small pan on medium-low heat for
a few minutes until they become fragrant and lightly toasted,
stirring frequently. Be careful to not over toast or burn.
Set aside in small bowl.

In medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil
until hot and then add onions. Sauté onions until lightly
caramelized, then add garlic. Add tomatoes, toss with onions
and garlic in pan to coat. When tomatoes begin to soften and
burst, add spinach, and sauté until spinach is wilted. Season
with salt and pepper.

While the pasta is still hot, add it to the spinach and tomato
mixture. Add cheeses. Remove from heat and let dish sit for
several minutes. Top with toasted pine nuts and season with
red pepper flakes and basil, if using.

Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 210 calories, 9 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat),
29 g carbohydrate, 8 g protein, 4 g dietary fiber, 150 mg

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