Cheesy, Meaty Pasta

As soon as I saw this post in my GR from Amber's Delectable Delights I knew I had to make it. It looked great! I love pasta and spinach together. This recipe wasn't super easy because there were a lot of things going on but I got Joseph in the kitchen :) He helped a lot. Whisking, grating, mixing, etc. I wish I could have gotten an apron on him... just kidding!

The taste was great. I made a lighter version but it was still pretty up there in points (I had 9 activity points to use so I was still way within my daily ration). I couldn't find fat-free ricotta (still keeping my eye out) and I didn't want to sub ICBINB for the butter because I didn't think it was too much butter to really worry about. I'll see what the difference is in points and see how it tastes the next time I make it. Joseph thought that the meatballs didn't have enough flavor. Not sure what else to add to make it more flavorful. Any ideas?

Source: as seen on Culinography

Florentine Mac and Cheese and Roast Chicken Sausage Meatballs
  • 1 pound cavatappi corkscrew shaped hallow pasta (I used 1 package of penne)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (I used 1 1/4 pounds or 20 ounces)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped (I used 2 tsp dried rosemary)
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup low fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs, plus more, if needed* (I used panko)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided (I forgot to use)
  • 2 boxes, 10 ounces, chopped frozen spinach (I used one box)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup whole milk (I used 1%)
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg, eyeball it
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Place a large pot of water on to boil for pasta. When it comes to a boil, salt it and add the pasta to cook to al dente. Strain pasta reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.

While the water is coming to a boil, in a large mixing bowl combine the chicken, salt and pepper, rosemary, fennel seeds, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano - a rounded handful, egg and bread crumbs. *If the mixture seems too wet, add a handful of bread crumbs and mix together.

Form 8 large round balls, about 3 to 4-inches. Coat balls in a couple of tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and lightly grease a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (I forgot to do this and only sprayed non-stick on the pan). Arrange balls on the baking sheet and roast 17 to 18 minutes until juices run clear.

Defrost spinach in microwave 8 to 10 minutes on "defrost" setting depending on the microwave.
Place the boxes in a shallow dish to catch any run off.

While the meatballs roast, in a medium sauce pot over medium heat, melt butter, whisk in flour, cook 1 minute then whisk in stock and milk, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and thicken 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 cup grated Parmigiano and reduce heat on lowest setting.

Wring spinach completely dry in clean kitchen towel then separate as you add it to the sauce. Also add the reserved 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Toss pasta with the spinach-white sauce and adjust seasonings.

Serve Florentine Mac-n-Cheese with 2 meatballs per person along side (I served with one meatball and it was more than enough!).

Serves 8
6 WW points for Florentine Mac-n-Cheese
7 WW points per Meatball


~Amber~ said...

It looks wonderful! I am glad you enjoyed it. I also thought the meatballs needed a little extra something.

Melissa & James Atkinson said...

hey. the recipe looks great. i have found the low-fat ricotta at albertsons. i dont think trader joes carries it. as for the meatballs you could try adding onion, pancetta (this would pair really well with the sauce, spinach and chicken) or even sun dried tomatoes. just some suggestions. i may have to try this one.

Brooke said...

Yum - I have this bookmarked to make soon!

And just FYI, I would stay away from the fat free ricotta. It's very gritty and noticeably NOT ricotta-like. I'd stick with part-skim!


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