|Baked Pasta Florentine|
Fresh noodles tossed with a rich and creamy spinach sauce, topped with melted mozzarella and cheddar. Pasta Florentine is one of those dishes that can be prepared with store-bought components, but can have considerably less sodium (and fewer hard-to-pronounce things) if you make them yourself. Fresh egg noodles are very easy to make, and give an opportunity to sneak in whole wheat flour. Instead of opening a jar, this creamy sauce is made with spinach and fresh milk. Each component is quite simple and can be made ahead of time.
The prep time can be shortened if you are "distraction-free" and can multitask, but that's not how it really went at our house, either. Barney the Dinosaur can only hold the attention of the boys for so long. Here are the steps, broken down:
10 oz package frozen spinach
2tbsp chopped onion
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 cup oregano
1 tsp lite salt (omit for further sodium reduction if needed.)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp unbleached wheat flour, tapioca flour or arrowroot flour
2 cups milk
whole wheat egg noodles, cooked (recipe below) or gluten free noodles
1 cup shredded blend of mozzarella and cheddar
Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a lidded casserole dish with butter, olive oil or coconut oil.
Pop the spinach in the microwave for about four minutes, or into a small saucepan to thaw and cook until soft. When it is done, dump it into a blender carafe, along with the chopped onion, basil, oregano and salt. Don't blend it yet.
Prepare the white sauce: In a saucepan, melt the butter and flour together. Add the milk, stirring constantly until it comes to a low boil. A silicone whisk is really handy for this task.
Let the white sauce cool for a couple of minutes, then pour it into the blender carafe with the spinach. Blend the sauce until liquified. Pour the sauce back into the sauce pan along with the cooked, drained noodles. Mix them well, then transfer it all to the casserole dish. Top with the grated cheese and bake with the lid on for about half an hour, until the cheese is melted and starts to bubble.
Whole Wheat Egg Noodles (adapted from a recipe in the Ukrainian Daughter's Cookbook.)
1/4 cup water
2 cups whole wheat flour
With a whisk, beat the eggs and water. Add the whole wheat flour all at once and stir until crumbly. A tablespoon at a time, add more water until the mixture can stick together into a dough ball. I used three extra tablespoons of water. If you use white flour you will need less water.
Knead the dough ball until smooth. Pour a small amount of olive oil on to your hand and coat the dough ball with it. Let it rest for at least fifteen minutes before you roll it out.
Roll it as thin as you can, then cut it into strips. (White flour noodles will need to rest before cutting to relax the gluten, but whole wheat noodles do not shrink as much so you can cut them right away.) Place the noodles into boiling water and cook until tender, five to ten minutes depending on how thick they are.
G-man and the Cadet sure like their spinach. It is one vegetable we do not have to coax or bribe about. I would love to describe Pasta Florentine as "elegant," but after cleaning it off their grins and elbows I'll have to leave it as "kid friendly."
I shared this post with Pennywise Platter Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Foodie Friday the Weekend Whatever, Monday Mania , Make Your Own Monday, Ruth's Real Food, Meatless Mondays, Tasty Tuesdays, Fat Tuesday and Real Food Wednesdays.