09 April 2008

Pasta with Spinach, Feta and Soy

I seriously debated putting 'soy' in the title of this post, thinking it might scare some people away, but I decided to do it- I will say here in the first sentence that you don't have to use soy, but more on that later. I have been making some variety of this dish since I was in high school and decided to become a vegetarian (as you can see by some of my other entries, I'm not vegetarian now but I try not to eat a lot of meat). I first made this dish when I was trying out all the soy based meat substitutes and while I made some pretty strange things in that period- this pasta dish was a keeper. Since it´s one of my favorite pasta dishes, I've decided to enter it into this weeks Presto Pasta Roundup, hosted by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast.

It starts with about 2 oz. of pasta per person. While the water for the pasta boils, you chop up some garlic and spinach. Then when you add the pasta to the water, put the garlic in a separate pan with a little bit of oil and start to heat it. When the garlic is just golden, add the soy protein (or ground beef, chicken, or turkey, or just skip the protein) and the spices (in this case oregano as I was going for a greekish flavor). SauteƩ till browned and wait for your pasta to cook. Save 1/2 cup of the pasta water and then drain it. Put the spinach on top of the soy protein, then add the pasta, pasta water and a bit more olive oil. Mix the whole thing on medium heat for a few minutes until the spinach wilts, then crumble in the cheese and mix to combine. It's that easy' and the best part is you can change up the flavors for variety. Some of my favorite combos are basil, oregano and parmesan cheese and herbs de provance with a soft goat cheese.

Though the dish doesn't have a sauce per se, it's not dry as the spinach gives it moisture and the cheese gives it a ton of flavor. The feta I used was really creamy and melted slightly to coat the pasta and I added a few grates of fresh nutmeg at the very end, which added another level of flavor. It's really quite healthy too, especially if you use a whole wheat or multi-plus pasta. The leftovers reheat well too.

Pasta with Spinach, Feta and Soy
Serves 4

8 oz. whole wheat penne
1 T. olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t. dried oregano
8 oz. meat substitute (I use Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style)
4 oz. spinach, roughly chopped, or the same amount of baby spinach, whole
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
freshly ground nutmeg
vegetable or chicken bullion (optional)

- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Chop the garlic and the spinach.

- Add the pasta to the boiling water, set timer for the recommended cooking time (the pasta should be quite al dente).

- In a large pan, put garlic and half the olive oil. Heat over medium low till the garlic is golden then add the soy protein and oregano. Use a wooden spoon to break the soy up into little chunks and brown.

- Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta (you can add a pinch of bullion to the reserved cooking water for extra flavor). Put the spinach over the soy in the pan, then pour the pasta on top. Add a bit of the pasta water and the remaining olive oil and mix everything together over medium high heat till the spinach wilts. Turn off heat and add crumbled feta. Serve immediately.

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