Pasta Fresca

Well, my son just left for his first day of high school.  Yep.  High school.  How is that even possible? I don’t even know what to say about that.  It’s very surreal for some reason.  Almost like it was when dropping him at kindergarten.  There are certain times in your child’s life that force you to stop and relish the moment, because time does not stop.  One day you wake up and the little boy who loved to play with John Deere tractors is now somehow taller than you and entering high school.  Crazy. 
Have you ever been to a Noodles & Company?  I love that restaurant.  I know it’s like fast food pasta but I think it’s great. They have a variety of pastas from different cuisines, but I never stray from the Pasta Fresca.  We went there recently and I had a moment of panic.  I was scanning the menu looking for my beloved Pasta Fresca and I didn’t see it.  I was standing there thinking, how dare they take that off the menu? It was the best! I was craving that! Now what?  Then, I realized that they changed the name and the type of pasta but the rest was the same.  Crisis averted.  My daughter was with that day too, so we ordered her buttered noodles.  Sometimes she has a thing about sauce on her pasta.  As in, there’s sauce on it! I don’t want sauce!  So we thought we should just get her the buttered noodles. Silly us.  She had about one bite, looked at her Daddy’s and said she wanted to try it.  It was obviously way tastier than plain buttered noodles, so she continued to devour his pasta and he was left with the buttered noodles.  Poor guy, he’s such a good sport.  

Don’t you hate that when you go to a restaurant expecting to order your favorite dish only to find out they don’t serve it anymore?  Ugh.  It’s such a let down! That’s why I like to figure out how to make some things at home.  This one, I think I’ve mastered.  The nachos & cheese from Oogie’s and Hicory House? No, I don’t think I will ever figure out that cheese.  I have such fond memories of that cheese.  Oh, it was so good.  I miss that cheese.  There is no other nacho cheese like that nacho cheese. I will never be able to stop for an after school snack with my kids and enjoy gooey, molten, spicy nacho cheese with my children like my mom did with me. It’s such a bummer, I have to let it go.
Ok. Moving on.
I don’t usually make a point to go meatless for meals, but we do on occasion.  Usually if we go meatless, it’s just because this sounded good for dinner.  We really don’t miss the meat.  That’s just us, you can always add sautéed chicken or shrimp.   I often will get a take-and-bake loaf of bread and serve that on the side.  
Pasta Fresca
Yields 4 servings
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
12 oz Penne Pasta
4 Roma Tomatoes
1 Red Onion
2 cups fresh Baby Spinach
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, optional
Sauce:
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Sweet White Wine
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
4 cloves Garlic, minced 
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper

Boil water and cook pasta according to package directions, drain.  While the noodles are boiling, dice up the tomatoes into large chunks and slice the onion.  Then, whisk the ingredients for the sauce together.  Heat a large skillet over med-high heat.  Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the pan and get it nice and hot.  Once hot, add the drained pasta and red onion.  Sauté, stirring occasionally until the noodles have some nice brown bits and the onions have softened a bit.  Then stir in the sauce.  Continue to stir a couple of minutes to sauté the garlic and cook out the alcohol.  Then add the tomatoes and spinach.  Stir until the spinach has wilted.  Serve immediately, topped with parmesan cheese if you prefer.

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