Penne with Parmesan and Pepper

by Shawnda on November 4, 2010

in Lighter & Healthier,Pasta, Rice, and Grains,Vegetarian

Penne with Parmesan, Pepper, and Peppery Greens

Some of my most favorite things are in this one-bowl dinner:

  • Pasta - Definitely something I had to learn to love while dating the Foodie Groom (it was probably 75% of his pre-me diet). Today, I buy Dreamfields Pasta. I wasn’t bribed with cookies, money, or a year’s supply of pasta to tell you that. (Um, but I’d happily accept that year’s supply of pasta :) ) It advertises that it has only 5 digestible carbs per serving, which I take advantage of by cracking open a bottle of wine. And maybe even having a bowl of Blue Bell’s for dessert. And my husband doesn’t even notice a difference – no crinkled noses or peanut gallery comments about texture (like when I make whole wheat pasta).
  • Parmesan - I buy a wedge of real Parmigiano-Reggiano two, maybe three times a year. It’s pricier than it’s green canister pre-grated counterpart. And worth every single penny. And it lasts foreeeever, doubled wrapped in the fridge. I keep the rinds in a ziploc baggie in the freezer and throw a piece into every simmering batch of marinara sauce [drool]
  • Peppery greens - Every week, I buy a container of octuple-washed (and ready to eat!) arugula and spinach. I put it on sandwiches at lunch, in scrambled eggs at breakfast, and in salads at dinner. And the heat of just-drained pasta wilts it perfectly. Sometimes I mistakenly grab the container of “herbed” greens. Fennel fronds aren’t one of my favorite things.

Penne with Parmesan, Pepper, and Peppery Greens

Aside from salt and pepper, those are the only ingredients in this dish. I’m a big, huge, fan of meals from pantry and fridge staples. And love when they take 20 minutes start to finish. I’m great at making our weekly menu but absolutely rotten at sticking to it so dishes like these are worth their weight in Parmesan.

The key to this dish is to keep the cooked pasta and water moving in the bowl while gradually adding the cheese. You’ll end up with a creamy, velveety smooth Parmesan sauce coating your pasta and greens. Take a shortcut and dump all the cheese in at once? Two words: clumpy mess.

Penne with Parmesan, Pepper, and Peppery Greens

Penne with Parmesan, and Pepper

Finely grated parmesan makes a velvety smooth cheese sauce.


  • 6 oz Penne
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 handful baby spinach and arugula
  • pinch of salt


  1. Cook penne in salted water, according to package directions. Reserve 3/4 cup of pasta water before draining. Return drained pasta to the pot or a large bowl.
  2. Add 1/2 cup pasta water to the pasta.
  3. Grab tongs in one hand, a generous pinch of the finely shredded cheese in the other.
  4. Sprinkle the cheese over the pasta while constantly tossing.
  5. Keep the pasta moving and keep adding a pinch at a time until you’re out of cheese – although leave a couple of pinches for garnish, if you wish.
  6. Add the pepper and greens and toss until thoroughly mixed and the greens slightly wilt. (Use a splach or two of the extra water, if necessary.)
  7. Salt to taste.


Yields: Serves 3 (or 2 generous servings)

Adapted from Everyday Food

Estimated time: 20 minutes

Nutritional Information
Calories: 268 | Fat: 6 | Fiber 5.3
WW Points: 5


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kelly Fagan November 4, 2010 at 8:59 am

What beautiful pictures! How do you get the lighting so perfect?


2 foodiebride November 4, 2010 at 11:30 pm

Thank you, Kelly :) I use a Lightscoop. It’s the poor girl’s natural light and Speedlite substitute. Best $25 I ever spent!


3 Fallon November 4, 2010 at 10:02 am

Yum simple and delicious!


4 Stephanie @ Per l'Amore del Cibo November 4, 2010 at 10:15 am

It’s amazing that some of the simplest meals can become instant favorites, isn’t it? This sounds lovely. We’ve made a few pastas that include arugula and I find that the two are an amazing combo. Thanks for sharing!


5 Noemi November 4, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Love this!


6 Amanda November 4, 2010 at 7:52 pm

This one looks like it’s worth a try! Yum!


7 Vegolicious November 7, 2010 at 4:56 am

Wow, this pasta looks fantastic. It’s amazing how a few simple ingredients can make a fantastic dish?

I’d love for you to submit one of your beautiful photos, and a link to your post, to my new vegetarian photo gallery showcasing the best vegetarian dishes and recipes on the web.


8 Sharlene November 7, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Love this! Pasta with a little bit of cheese and a vegetable of some sort never gets old in my book.


9 cheffresco November 18, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Great looking pasta dish! Love penne!


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