So, I admit it: I am a picky eater. I hate that I am a picky eater! Anytime I can get anything green into my system, I do. Baby spinach in pasta makes me happy. In fact, I am smiling right now in spite of myself!
This recipe is like Heaven in your mouth. It makes you want to hug yourself.
When you eat in a resteraunt, are there certain dishes that make you think to yourself, "This dish is something that can only be made in a restaurant. There is some kind of super secret that keeps me from ever being able to make this at home."? Anybody? There are several dishes like that for me. I love shrimp portofino from Macaroni Grill. It is one of those dishes that I used to think is only a restaurant dish. This dish reminds me of that one, but it is better.
I have learned that the key to so very many recipes is very simple: heavy cream. If you want to eat light, half and half will work, but that is as "light concious" as I will allow. Heavy cream/half and half is just the right thing to do, as is real olive oil....and real butter....and this could go on for days if I let it...
This recipe is adapted from Rachael Ray's Lemon Spaghetti with a couple of welcome additions:
Step Two: Cook angel hair pasta in a boiling pot of well-salted water. Do the rest of the steps while this cooks.
This picture is actually misleading. Nearly everytime I make this (and really any pasta dish), the pasta cooks too quickly. If this happens to you, just take the pot off the heat, but leave the pasta in the hot water. The pasta will continue to cook, just at a slower pace which is what is happening in the picture.
I actually do not like my pasta al dente. I like squishy pasta, but you cook it however you like! When you are ready for your pasta in step 9, drain your pasta well. Wait until that step because you will need some of the cooking water!
Step Three: Zest two lemons, and then cut them in half.
If you cut them in half first, they will be difficult to zest, you will get juice all over yourself and everything else, and then you won't have any juice for the recipe.
I promise that I am totally not speaking from experience. Really.
Step Four: Juice the lemons.
This picture has a lot of yellow. Yellow is such a happy color. That makes me think of You've Got Mail when she says, "Don't you think that daisies are the happiest flower?" :) Moving on...
Step Five: Chop garlic. It is supposed to be minced, but like I have said before, my knife is from circa 1985. Chopping is as good as it gets, and I do not mind. I like garlic.
Step Six: Pour your olive oil into a pan, and then add garlic and crushed red pepper. Heat the pan over low to med-low heat.
Actually, since my stove is eleven years old and the burners only work as well as they want, I usually heat mine on medium heat until it starts to sizzle...which takes a while...
Ok, I am really showing this photo more for a laugh than anything else. You are supposed to measure out 3/4 c. half-and-half. Look at my awesome measuring skills...hahahaha. Anyway...
I like to have everything chopped and measured before I get started...or while the stove takes eternity to warm up...
If you look really, really closely, you will notice small bubbles in the garlic and crushed red pepper.
Step Seven:When it sizzles ever so slightly like this, add the half-and-half and lemon juice.
Step Eight: Add a ladle of pasta water (2 - 3 T.) to the sauce. The pasta water makes the sauce magically stick to the pasta.
This is my itty-bitty ladle. Isn't he cute?
Step Nine: When the sauce bubbles up like this, add the drained pasta, zest, and half the Parmesan cheese.
Actually....I add about 2/3 of the cheese.
Step Ten: Mix well.
(Let me point out that I was out of angel hair pasta, which is my fave for this recipe, so I used spaghetti, which is also fantastically delicious.)
Step Eleven: With a clean pair of kitchen shears, cut the stems off of the baby spinach.
If you don't mind eating stems, you can leave them on. It won't hurt you. I just prefer that the stems not make it into my pasta.
I actually get a handful of them at a time and cut all the stems at once.
Ok, let's talk about how these baby spinach leaves are the biggest baby spinach leaves ever. If they are super huge like this, cut them in half. You want bite-sized spinach, not mouth-sized spinach...well, I do anyway.
Step Thirteen: Top with remaining Parmesan cheese.
For the record, grated parmesan is prettier than the shredded parmesan shown here.
I ate all of this...and then some more...and then I licked the pan.
Ok, so I didn't lick the pan, but I sure did think about it.
Lemon Angel Hair with Chicken and Spinach
Click here for printable version
1/2 lb angel hair pasta
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 t. crushed red pepper
Perfect Chicken, cut into chunks
2 lemons, zested and juiced
3/4 c. half-and-half
1 c. Parmesan, grated (or shredded)
1 c. baby spinach, stems removed
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water well, and add pasta. Heat a large skillet over low heat. Add oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Cook until the oil sizzles (about 7-10 minutes). Add lemon juice, half-and-half, and a ladle of the pasta water to the garlic oil mixture. Raise the heat to med-low to med heat until the sauce begins to bubble. Drain pasta - DO NOT RINSE. Add the pasta, zest, and 1/2 c. Parmesan to the cream sauce. Toss for a minute or two. Add chicken and spinach, and toss until well distributed. Top with remaining cheese. Enjoy!
Side note: If your pasta is cooking too quickly, just take the pot off the heat, but leave the pasta in the hot water. The pasta will continue to cook, just at a slower pace. I have to use this trick almost every time.