I was yearning for something creamy and rich for dinner. I wanted pasta with a creamy sauce full of spinach and shrimp. I would use my go-to recipe for a creamy sauce and add spinach at the end. I would simply separate the sauce between two skillets, add pasta and ham to one and pasta and shrimp to the other. A good handful of Parmesan for each, with more for garnish, and my craving would be appeased.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done a “two ways” dish. I make this two choice meal because my P.S. doesn’t eat shellfish. I’m a shrimp lover, so in order to enjoy my protein I have to make a second one for my hubby. It’s not difficult when I make a pasta or risotto dish, since the seafood and meat can be added at the end of cooking, in separate skillets. It’s easier for me to just eat shrimp when we dine out, but I do occasionally split the choices at home.
I cooked a 16 oz box of angel hair pasta al dente, according to the box directions. I salted the water well. I also always save some of the water when I drain the pasta. You never know if you’ll need more liquid later when the pasta is combined with the sauce.
I’d heated a large nonstick skillet with 3 tablespoons of butter and when the butter was melted I added 3 tablespoons of flour. I stirred the flour (roux) for a few minutes, to cook out the raw flour flavor. I added a good teaspoon of minced garlic to the roux, stirred well then added a cup of heavy cream and 2 cups of chicken broth.
The sauce simmered for a few minutes, thickening as I stirred it. When it was bubbling I was ready for the spinach.
I’d roughly chopped a bag of fresh spinach. Now I added it to the skillet and stirred until it was wilted. It always amazes me how much spinach reduces in volume as it cooks. I taste tested the sauce and it was plenty salty without adding any, but I added a good pinch of black pepper and a smaller pinch of cayenne pepper and stirred again. Just right!
At this point I scooped ladles full of creamy spinach sauce into a bowl and set aside about half of the sauce. To the remaining sauce in the skillet I added about 1/2 cup of julienned ham and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan. I stirred well and let it cook for several minutes until the cheese was melted and the ham was heated through.
Using tongs, I added a good amount of pasta to the skillet, about 1/3 of the pot. I stirred and folded to coat the pasta and allow it to soak up the sauce. It was just right, I didn’t have to add any pasta water to rehydrate it this time. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.
I served up the creamy spinach and ham pasta into a dish, garnished it with more shredded Parm and started all over with the shrimp version. I poured the set aside sauce back into the skillet and added a pound of 41-60 size shrimp. I’d removed the tails and sautéed them earlier with a little butter and garlic. I also added 1/2 cup of Parmesan to the skillet.
When the sauce was bubbling I added 1/2 of the remaining pasta to the skillet and stirred to coat. I served up half of the skillet, garnished with more shredded Parm and was ready for my dinner.
I loved the cheesy sauce with spinach. Spinach isn’t a strong flavor but it carries through enough to meld with the shrimp and cheese. Pairing seafood with cheese is a culinary no-no but I’m not a pro. I like cheesy shrimp. It was delicious! The leftovers were equally tasty reheated for lunch the next day. My P.S. loved his ham version for dinner and also reheated the next day.
Making the pasta this way made 2 servings of each the ham and shrimp versions. I’m still trying to decide how to serve the leftover angel hair pasta. Maybe another cheese sauce.
Creamy Spinach Pasta with Ham or Shrimp
A deliciousl cheesy, garlic sauce with spinach tossed with angel hair pasta and ham or shrimp.
- 16 oz box of angel hair pasta; prepared al dente in salted water according to package directions
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon garlic; minced
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups chicken broth
- bag of fresh spinach; roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan + more for garnish for each version (1 cup total plus garnishes)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup ham; julienned (add more or less to taste)
- 1 pound shrimp; cleaned with tails removed (I used 41-60 count size, add more or less to taste)
In a large nonstick skillet melt butter over medium high heat and stir in flour. Cook for several minutes. Stir in minced garlic and stir for 2-3 more minutes.
Add heavy cream and chicken broth and whisk or stir to combine with flour mixture. Let cook for several minutes until bubbly.
Add spinach and cook until wilted and shrunk. Stir occasionally.
Remove half of the sauce into a bowl and set aside. Using a soup ladle works well for this.
Add the Parmesan and ham to the sauce remaining in the skillet and stir well. Cook for a few minutes until the cheese is melted and the ham is heated through.
Drain pasta, reserving 2-3 cups of water in a container.
Using tongs, add 1/3 of the drained pasta to the skillet and stir to coat. Allow the pasta to cook for a few minutes and absorb some of the sauce. Add pasta water if it becomes too dry.
Remove to pasta bowl and garnish with more shredded Parmesan.
Add set aside sauce back to the skillet along with Parmesan and shrimp. Stir and heat until the cheese has melted and the shrimp is heated through. Add pasta and stir to coat. Again add pasta water if mixture becomes dry.
Serve pasta with more Parmesan as a garnish.
Pasta is great reheated in the microwave.
This made two generous servings of each the ham and shrimp pasta. The extra angel hair pasta can be used for another dish. I counted this as 5 servings with the leftover pasta as 1 serving of a different dish.