Can You See the Light? [pasta fresca]

Is it a touch warmer where you are?

Can you smell a difference in the fresh air?

Do the fresh flowers at the grocery store finally look appealing again?

I really hope your answer is yes.  If it isn’t, consider me doubled over in guilt for even suggesting spring is around the corner.  I find myself sighing in relief multiple times a day now that it looks like the last of the winter blahs are gone here in DC.  Spring’s arrival is one of my favorite times of year.  I love getting out my warm-weather clothes, love going for runs while it’s still bright and sunny, and I love lightening things up in the kitchen.  I take my time strolling through the produce section every week when I shop, and fill my cart with fresh fruits and vegetables.  No more hearty meats and starchy potatoes for us.

Instead, we’re keeping our flavors bright, simple and clean.

This is none other than homemade Pasta Fresca, Gimme Some Oven’s take on a classic bowl from Noodles & Co. It’s exactly the kind of dish that will help usher in spring.  While devouring this at a frightening pace the other night, I pointed out that it tasted so….”fresh.”  My friend and dinner guest Susan pointed out that perhaps the name “fresca” was given to the dish for that exact reason.


In addition to being decidedly fresh and exactly the right companion for almost-spring weather, Pasta Fresca costs next to nothing to put on the table.  And it hardly takes any time to make.  So really, what are you waiting for?

Pasta Fresca
adapted from Gimme Some Oven

For the pasta you will need:

  • 12 oz. penne pasta (I used 16 because who wants 4 oz. of pasta leftover in a box)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 roma tomatoes, diced
  • half a red onion, diced
  • 1 oz. fresh baby spinach
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 C olive oil

For the herb and balsamic vinaigrette, you will need:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. white wine
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

In a small bowl, whisk together vinaigrette ingredients (olive oil, balsamic, white wine, parsley and salt) until well-blended.  Doing this first allows all the ingredients to mellow out and get to know each other.  The vinaigrette will taste more cohesive if it’s had some time to sit while the pasta cooks.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, boil water, and cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tsp. olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add garlic, and saute for one minute, just to release the flavor.  Then add in the tomatoes, onion, and cooked pasta and continue sauteing for 5 minutes until the pasta just slightly begins to brown.

Add the spinach and vinaigrette, and continue stirring and sauteing for another 3-5 minutes, until the spinach begins to wilt.

Remove from heat and serve, garnished with as much Parmesan as you want.

3 thoughts on “Can You See the Light? [pasta fresca]

  1. You: “So really, what are you waiting for?”

    Wooden Nickels: I’m waiting for you to make it for me!!! Looks like exactly my kind of thing–as long as it has whole wheat noodles! ♥♥♥

  2. Pingback: Lenten Dates (or, I haven’t gotten any better at dipping things in chocolate) | a glass of milk

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