Spinach artichoke wholemeal penne

  • 450g wholemeal penne pasta
  • 3 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 (425g) tin or 1 (280g) box frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted, drained, quartered
  • 1 small bundle farm fresh spinach, stems trimmed
  • 1 shallot, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 120ml chicken or vegetable stock, just eyeball the amount
  • A handful fresh mint leaves
  • A handful lightly toasted slivered almonds
  • Salt or freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled
  • A handful grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
This is a dish that can stand alone as an entree or be served up as a side. The flavors will remind you of decadent spinach artichoke dip, made with mounds of mayonnaise and tons of cheese. This dish however is a figure-friendly fake-out full of vitamins, fibre and protein. Even the spinach pesto is made with half the amount of extra-virgin olive oil I usually use, due to the addition of vegetable stock.

1) Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring up it up to a boil to cook the pasta, season with some salt and cook to al dente, according to package directions. Drain and reserve about 240ml of the cooking water.

2) Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in medium nonstick skillet. Add artichokes to heat through and lightly brown at edges.

3) To clean spinach, fill sink with water, swish spinach around and let grit fall to bottom of sink. Dry leaves before using.

4) In the bowl of a food processor, add the shallot, chicken stock, spinach leaves, mint, almonds and salt and pepper, to taste. If you have a handheld small-holed grater or a zester, grate garlic into the food processor. Adding a whole clove can result in stray big pieces of raw garlic, too bitter to bite down on. If you do not have a handheld grater, mince garlic and mash up into paste with a little salt. Turn processor on and add in about 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.

5) Scrape the spinach pesto into the artichoke pan and loosely cover with foil. Bring mixture to a simmer over low to medium-low heat and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the reserved pasta cooking water, the pasta and the cheese. Toss to coat the pasta with the sauce and heat for 1 minute.

Transfer to a serving bowl or platter, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve.

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