When I was a kid, I would sometimes ask my mom to make me some pasta alfredo, because it was the 90s and it’s also DELICIOUS. She would visibly wince at the idea of dumping cheese, butter, and cream on top of a pile of pasta and serving it to me. However, never a person to leave diners dissatisfied, she came up with a method to make a creamy sauce that’s lighter, healthier, and honestly just as good.
Last week, I was in need of a quick meal that reasonably healthy, but filling and comforting at the same time.
Enter Ditalini with All the Greens. It’s a riff on the creamy pasta my mom used to make, but I added a TON of hearty greens that were either roasted or sauteed- for extra mom approval.
1 bag (6oz) spinach, washed
1 big bunch kale
1 big head broccoli
3 large cloves garlic
1 tbsp chili flakes
1 can (12oz, 354mL) evaporated milk
1/3 cup grated pecorino romano
1 lb (454g) ditalini pasta
How to make it
- Turn your oven to 425 degrees and start prepping your roasting veggies. Wash the broccoli and cut it into small, bite-size florets. Discard the tough bottom bit of the stem, but thinly slice the rest of it into rounds- there’s no reason to waste it! Throw it all into a giant bowl. Take the kale off the stems and wash and tear it into pieces- the size matters less here because it’ll wilt very significantly. Put the kale into the bowl with the broccoli.
- Drizzle the veggies with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and season with a tablespoon of salt. Use your hands to smush the oil and salt all over the veggies. Tip them onto a baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes. The broccoli should be tender and have some charred edges, and the kale should be crisp.
- While the veggies are roasting, set a pot of water to boil, and add at least 2 teaspoons of salt to the water. When it’s boiling, add the ditalini.
- In a separate pan, heat a teaspoon of olive oil and add the spinach. Let it wilt and turn dark green, using tongs to move it around. Give it about three minutes- don’t let it turn to mush. Add the spinach into the now-empty big bowl and sprinkle it with a pinch of salt and some cracked pepper. Check on the roasting veggies and give them a little shake.
- Grate 3 whole large cloves of garlic and open the can of evaporated milk. In the spinach pan, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil and sautee the garlic and chili flakes for about two minutes over low-medium heat. As soon as the garlic starts to brown, add the whole can of evaporated milk, plus 1/4 cup of water, a pinch of salt, and a few turns of cracked pepper.
- Let it simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often. Take out the roasting veggies when they’re ready and add them to the giant bowl.
- After simmering the sauce, add 1/3 cup of freshly-grated pecorino romano cheese and stir constantly, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. It will have reduced a bit by now, and thickened slightly. If it looks too runny- don’t worry.
- When the pasta is done, SAVE 2/3 CUP OF PASTA WATER and then strain off the rest. Add the pasta water to the sauce and boil on high heat for 5 minutes while stirring constantly- the starch from the pasta sauce will thicken the sauce significantly.
- Dump the pasta into the sauce and use tongs to distribute the sauce all over the beautiful ditalini. Then pour the saucy pasta into the bowl of veggies. Use tongs to coat everything in the garlicky, creamy, cheesy, peppery sauce. Add salt if needed.
- It should look like approximately 50-50 pasta and greens. Maybe 60-40. Either way, dig in and know you’ve eaten your veggies today.