My scrumptious penne pasta with spinach cream sauce is the epitome of a simple-yet-cozy home cooked meal. Prepared with a rich, creamy sauce made savory with the addition of sauteed leek and garlic, plus vibrant baby spinach leaves, this penne pasta recipe is a warming, love-filled bowl of deliciousness!
A Deliciously Comforting and Cozy Penne Pasta Recipe
Creamy, savory sauces and pasta go together so very deliciously, don't they?
When they do come together, they seem to create a little bit of love in a bowl, a little magic, warming and nourishing not only the belly but the spirit as well with their richness.
Since I had a few extra boxes of penne on hand (one of my favorite varieties of pasta), plus a bag of baby spinach, I began craving a nice warm bowl of creamy pasta kissed with lots of savory flavors, one that's easy to prepare yet really hits the spot...
With the ingredients I had on hand, I whipped up a simple spinach cream sauce with some butter, leeks, garlic, a sprinkle of nutmeg, plus a touch of both milk and cream for a balanced creaminess.
Then, I added to this delectably rich and creamy mix some warm, tender cooked penne pasta and voila, the deliciously comforting and cozy pasta dish that I was craving was ready to be enjoyed!
Scrumptious just as it is or with the addition of some crispy bacon and freshly-shaved or grated parmesan cheese, a bowl of this tasty penne pasta is a new go-to meal in our household, and a special little treat any day of the week.
How To Make Penne Pasta with Spinach Cream Sauce
To prepare the rich and flavorful spinach cream sauce for the penne pasta you'll just a few savory ingredients: some butter, sliced leek, some garlic, a hint of seasoning, a sprinkle of flour, some milk and cream, and baby spinach, of course.
The sauce comes together in about 10-15 minutes, and then the cooked penne pasta is added directly into the sauce, and gently folded in to combine.
Here's a glance at my penne pasta with spinach cream sauce recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To begin, I saute the aromatic leeks and garlic together in the butter with some salt and pepper until softened, and then sprinkle in a bit of flour to create the roux, or thickener.
- Then, I whisk in my milk, allowing the sauce to simmer and tighten; next, I add a touch of veggie or chicken base for a bump of savory flavor, some cream, followed by the baby spinach, which is allowed to wilt into the warm sauce.
- The spinach cream sauce is finished with a kiss of nutmeg and a little squeeze of lemon to balance the richness before the cooked penne pasta is folded in and combined with the sauce until well coated.
- To serve, I spoon into bowls and garnish with a little shaved or grated parmesan cheese for savory flair, and perhaps a bit of crispy bacon.
Penne Pasta with Spinach Cream Sauce
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 6
Nutrition Info: 534 calories per serving
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
- 12 ounces penne pasta, cooked according to package instructions and held warm
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 leek, washed and quartered, then thinly sliced (white/pale green part only)
- 6 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- Black pepper
- Pinch white pepper
- 2 ounces flour (roughly 6 tablespoons)
- 3 cups milk (2%)
- 1 tablespoon veggie or chicken base
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups (packed) baby spinach leaves, stems removed
- Squeeze of lemon (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon)
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- Crispy bacon (chopped), as optional garnish
- Place a large heavy-bottom Dutch oven or deep skillet over medium-high heat, and add in the butter; once melted, add in the leeks and stir, cooking the leeks until soften and translucent, about 2 minutes.
- Add in the garlic followed by a pinch or two of salt and black pepper, plus the pinch of white pepper, and stir to incorporate; once the garlic is aromatic, sprinkle in the flour and stir to combine, cooking the mixture for about 30 seconds to cook out the raw flavor of the flour.
- Next, slowly pour in the milk, whisking all the while to avoid lumps from forming; once smooth, allow the mixture to come to a simmer and tighten up a bit for a few moments, stirring/whisking it occasionally.
- Add in the veggie (or chicken) base along with the heavy cream, and whisk that in the blend; gently simmer for several minutes more to tighten up the cream sauce, then turn off the heat.
- To finish the sauce, add in the baby spinach leaves and stir those in to wilt; add in the squeeze of lemon and a tiny pinch of ground nutmeg, and stir to incorporate.
- Add in the warm, cooked penne pasta, stir to combine, and serve in bowls with a little sprinkle of crispy bacon and grated parmesan, if desired.
Tips & Tidbits for my Penne Pasta with Spinach Cream Sauce:
- Penne pasta, tender little tubes: Penne pasta is a great pick for a cream sauce, as it allows for the sauce to fill the tubes for a nice, rich bite. But feel free to use any pasta you prefer—bowties, linguine, fettuccine, even macaroni or shells are fine.
- Part milk and part cream for balance: Rather than prepare this sauce with cream only, I like to use the cream as a finisher and mostly use milk as the sauce base. This way, the sauce has a nice rich flavor yet isn't super heavy on the palate.
- Aromatic ingredients: Leeks offer a nice, subtle flavor to the sauce, but feel free to substitute finely minced onions if you prefer. The garlic adds nice earthiness and extra flavor, and the finishing sprinkle of just a little bit of ground nutmeg is a classic flavor in a cream sauce.
- Baby spinach leaves: To keep things simple, I use pre-washed baby spinach leaves and remove any excess stem from them. Once added into the hot sauce, they quickly wilt right into it and soften, ready to enjoy.
- Make ahead option: You can prepare the spinach cream sauce a couple of days ahead of when you'd like to serve the pasta, then simply reheat it gently and add your cooked penne pasta directly in, folding to combine.