Spinach and Sun-dried Tomato Penne Pasta

Spinach and Sun-dried Tomato Penne Pasta

At pick-up, I was talking to a friend the other day and casually mentioned I was taking my daughter to Michael’s after school. She raised one brow and then said, “You have a reason to go there, right? Otherwise, you’ll get swallowed up and never leave.” Now, by my friends’ standards, I’m pretty crafty. I like to paint the rocks from our beach cottage in the summer, and I’m always keen to jump in and play when my daughter wants to have a colouring contest or make paper bag puppets. By real craft people standards, I’m a hack. However, I dream of being one of those moms who has every year of their children’s life neatly, humorously and cutely documented in one of those scrapbooks. I mean I save all the stuff–ticket stubs, playbills, certificates of achievement, badges of swimming levels earned, blue ribbons, notes with scribbled “I love You’s” in handwriting she’s now outgrown. They clutter my life; spilling from stacks in tucked away corners of the house. I even buy the stuff. The books with acid-free pages, additional inserts with pockets, stickers, the whole lot. I shuttle it to the cottage where I’m certain I’ll have time to work on it during that long, lazy weekend. And then, after three days of God-knows-what, I pack it all up again, untouched.

I even told my friend in the school yard that I envy those mother’s. The ones who carve out the time to develop all those digital images stored on cameras, phones and iPads. The ones who also then organize said images. After all, I’d have a nervous breakdown if all my technology blew up and I lost everything. So if the pictures and all the memorabilia is so damn important to me then why do I let them go undeveloped or allow them to pile up, sit, collect dust? I’ll tell you why. It’s because I let it go, saying I’d get to it another day and then another and another and another. And now I’m faced with a mountain of memories from 7 years of gorgeous childhood. (Yea, I did it the first year of her life brilliantly.) How is this food related? Well, this notion of putting it off until tomorrow is how we dig these holes for ourselves that we can’t get out of. Like making dinner. Don’t let it dog you. Don’t get deeper and deeper into this thing called parenthood and say I’ll figure out this food thing another day. Say today is the day I’m going to tackle it. Show it who is boss. Meal plan the living crap out of it and fill your week with dishes like this one. You can do this. Like everything else in your life that you crush with your brilliance, family meals can be one too.

Photo by Maya Visnyei

Honestly, this one-pot penne is your new everything. Between the creaminess of the cheese, the sweet basil, lovely wilted greens and salty bites of sun dried tomatoes it is a flavour bomb. The pasta also gets a boost from a secret ingredient called Unami paste. Usually found in the grocery store alongside other tomato pastes, Umami is seasoned with anchovy, garlic and balsamic vinegar. If you can’t find it, don’t worry. This dish is just as delicious with it omitted. In fact, whenever I throw it together people give me that look that says, “Holy hell, how did you make this?!” But it’s easy. It’s so easy it’s embarrassing. You can do it when you have no time, and your kids will eat it. In fact, I bet they’ll love it. And if they don’t, you can make me, for once and for all, haul all my scrapbook stuff out and get it organized. It’s about time someone did.

Spinach and Sun-dried Tomato Penne

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes



  • Makes: 4 servings
  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Total time: 30 minutes
  • 1 lb (450 g) penne pasta
  • 4 cups (1 L) baby spinach
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) diced sundried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) Umami paste
  • 1 large clove garlic, grated
  • 1 cup (250 ml) shaved asiago cheese, plus 1 Tbsp (15 ml) for garnish
  • 1 handful of basil leaves (about 20), chiffonade


Prepare pasta according to package directions in well-salted water.

During the last minute of cooking time, drop the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes into the water. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water then drain pasta.

Pour drained pasta and vegetables back into pot and mix in olive oil.

Using a microplane, grate garlic into the pasta, add in the Umami paste, cheese, and stir.

Loosen up your sauce by adding a tablespoon of reserved pasta water at a time until you reach your desired consistency.

Serve with basil and asiago sprinkled on top.

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1 Comment

  1. Heather
    October 21, 10:40 Reply

    Made this gem the other day, and it is definitely a keeper. It really was delicious, and extremely quick to make. I will have to make it again soon though, as I only had a very small serving. My husband came home from work and polished it off, while the rest of us were sleeping, and before I could put some aside for the next day’s lunch.

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