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Penne with Pancetta, Spinach, and Buttery Crumb Topping

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Jan Gautro
Yield 8 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)
Pancetta is cured pork, similar in taste to bacon. The pancetta and cheesy sauce make this pasta dish a good vehicle for spinach, a vegetable Aaron wouldn't ordinarily enjoy. Serve with salad.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces French bread
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) chopped pancetta
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
  • 3 3/4 cups 2% reduced-fat milk, divided
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 6 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 cups hot cooked penne (about 1 pound uncooked tube-shaped pasta)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Nutrition Information

  • calories 505
  • caloriesfromfat 29 %
  • fat 16.1 g
  • satfat 7.9 g
  • monofat 5.6 g
  • polyfat 1.6 g
  • protein 19.5 g
  • carbohydrate 70.8 g
  • fiber 3.8 g
  • cholesterol 37 mg
  • iron 3.6 mg
  • sodium 893 mg
  • calcium 157 mg

How to Make It

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.

  2. Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 4 cups; set aside.

  3. Heat a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat with cooking spray. Add pancetta, onion, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour in a small bowl; gradually add 3/4 cup milk, stirring until smooth. Add flour mixture, remaining 3 cups milk, and half-and-half to pan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Add spinach; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, salt, and pepper, stirring until cheese melts.

  4. Place pasta in a large bowl. Add sauce mixture to pasta; toss well. Spoon mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine breadcrumbs and butter; toss well. Sprinkle over pasta mixture.

  5. Bake at 425° for 6 minutes or until crumbs are lightly browned.