Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook would tell you to lean in close for a confessional, but this one involves garlic. So don’t lean in too close. You see, when I am feeling less than 100%, I crave garlic. Perhaps it has healing powers, perhaps not, but there you have it. This Cheesy Pasta Toss is infused with garlic flavor and the colors of the rainbow. What could be more magically delicious?
Cheesy Rainbow Pasta Toss, More Garlic Than Unicorn
Do not be thrown by this seemingly long list. It’s everything you’ll need, and it’s simple. Pinkie swear. You’ll be eating in 20 minutes. (Or 23 minutes, as one mom informed me was the length of the average My Little Pony episode.)
1 package Wacky Mac in mixed shapes (use whatever pasta you’d like, this is what we used for color and interest)
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon flour
~1 cup of milk
2 or 3 gratings of fresh nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, or to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
healthy splash of olive oil (it’s actually part of the dish)
3 large cloves of garlic, sliced medium (not too thin, not minced)
a few cups of broccoli florets, don’t hold back, I used two big stalks of it
1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half (don’t cheat here, you’ll want the juice to become part of the dish)
couple handfuls of baby spinach, wilted (I’ll explain this, hang on)
1/4 cup Italian parsley, roughly chopped
1. In a large pot, boil water for pasta. Add salt. Add the bag of pasta (I think it’s a pound.) Cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, return to original pot, set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a small pan, melt butter and stir in flour over medium heat. Cook for a couple minutes, but don’t brown. You’ve just made a roux, good work. Whisk in the milk and the nutmeg. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes until milk is almost bubbling and mixture thickens. Take off heat, add cheese. Stir until smooth, season with salt and pepper to taste. You’ve just made poor man’s Bechamel, again, good job.
3. Also meanwhile, heat the olive oil AND garlic in a medium skillet over medium heat. Yes, you heard me. This technique will infuse the olive oil with garlic flavor and help prevent burning the garlic. When you can smell the garlic, and the oil is a little hot (but not smoking or burning or browning the garlic), toss in the broccoli, some salt and pepper to taste, and toss to coat. Steam/saute by covering with a lid and cooking for 7 minutes or so, or until your desired crispness.
4. Add the cheese sauce to the pasta in the pasta pot. Stir/toss until coated. Add the garlicky broccoli when it’s done, and the tomatoes. Use the residual heat of the broccoli pan to wilt the baby spinach quickly, then toss it into the pasta too. Stir. Top with parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
Great with bread and cheese plate. We also served sliced oranges for a nice bright contrast. You could squeeze lemon juice on top of the pasta for a different flavor profile. Very flexible.
This was a huge hit at Chez Practical Cook, as the Practical Cooks Junior requested it for lunchboxes this week. That is high praise indeed. It’s very garlicky, and interesting to eat: different colors and textures.
What’s in your pasta tosses these days? Are you a Wacky Mac fan? Post a comment below. It’s fun. Promise.
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Tomorrow, we cross the International Doughnut Line as the Deep Fried Ambassador Goes Global.