Ok I lied, it’s not 50 shades of green. More like… 4. I did also mention the word cheesy in the title, you’re welcome to interpret that figuratively. This is a quick and easy dish, perfect for when you have leftover creamy cheese like Camembert or Brie. It rarely happens in my house (I basically had to guard the cheese until I made this) but I have heard it can happen to other people. To make this dish healthier, the cheese is used as a garnish. The sauce melts the cheese slightly, making it nice and gooey. I also used cashew cream in this recipe because it’s easier than making béchamel sauce and because cashew nuts are really good for you. To make it texturally more interesting, I added some mixed nuts. As always, there are lots of things you can substitute for the ingredients I used so just try it out with what you have at home and let me know how it turned out!
Ingredients (4-5 biggish portions):
- A glug of olive oil (sub with any other type of vegetable oil)
- 1 small bulb of fennel, chopped finely like an onion (you can also use a bigger one if you like fennel a lot)
- 4 medium sized cloves of garlic, chopped finely or grated
- 4 cups or 13 ‘hockey pucks’ of frozen spinach (fresh would also work but I’m not sure how much you’ld need)
- 1.5 cup of filtered water (less would also work)
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 1 cup of frozen peas (you can use fresh too, don’t use canned peas though)
- 2 teaspoons of dried thyme (I like thyme so I used loads, you can use less or even sub with tarragon)
- 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar (use another type of vinegar if you like)
- 1 cup of cashew cream (can be subbed with another type of cream)
- Black pepper and salt, to taste
- 1/2 cup of mixed nuts (I used a mix of cashews, walnuts, almonds and hazel nuts, it works with either of them)
- Cooked penne pasta (or sub with rigatoni, farfalle or conchiglie)
- Camembert, to taste (can be replaced by Brie or another creamy cheese, it will just taste less strong)
- Brown the fennel in the olive oil in a big pot over medium heat.
- Turn down the heat slightly. Add the garlic and let it cook until fragrant. Be careful not to burn it!
- Add the spinach, water and stock cube. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so it’s simmering. Cook the sauce until the spinach is defrosted and the water is slightly reduced.
- Add the peas and cook them until defrosted.
- Add the thyme and the balsamic vinegar. Then add the cream and let the sauce cook until thickened to your liking.
- Season with pepper and salt.
- Toast the nuts in a dry pan over low-medium heat until fragrant.
- Put the pasta in a bowl and cover it with the sauce and some nuts. Pinch bits of the cheese off and put it on top of the sauce so it melts nicely.
Storage and tip of the day:
The whole dish without the cheese should keep for 3-5 days in the fridge and 2-3 months in the freezer.
The best recipes are not only flavourful but also incorporate different textures. This dish is a good example of that because the chewy pasta, creamy sauce, gooey cheese and crunchy nuts all provide you with a different texture.