If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That’s what we have to say about the tried-and-true combination of spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, which is then folded into a creamy sauce with stringy and cheesy mozzarella. This is a bowl of pasta that will make you feel as warm and cozy as sitting by a fireplace.
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto(ContainsMilk/Lait, Tree Nut/Noix)
Red Onion, chopped
Salt and Pepper*
Preheat your broiler to high (to broil garlic ciabatta). When cooking the pasta, starch is released into the water; that starchy pasta water helps to thicken this sauce, without adding extra ingredients.
Wash and dry all produce.* In a large pot, add 12 cups water and 2 tsp salt. (NOTE: Use same size pot, amount of water and salt for 4 ppl.) Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, peel, then mince or grate garlic. Cut mozzarella ball(s) into 1/4-inch slices.
Add penne to the large pot with boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 10-12 min. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together half the garlic, 1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning (dbl for 4 ppl) and 2 tbsp oil (dbl for 4 ppl). Add mozzarella slices to marinade and gently stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. When pan is hot, add 1 tbsp oil (dbl for 4 ppl), then onions. Cook, stirring often, until softened, 3-4 min. Add remaining Italian seasoning and remaining garlic. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 1 min.
When penne is tender, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water (dbl for 4 ppl), then drain penne. To the pan with onions, add sun-dried pesto, tomato paste, reserved pasta water and half the Parmesan. Cook, stirring often, until sauce thickens slightly, 2-3 min. Add penne and spinach. Cook, stirring often, until spinach wilts and penne is coated, 1-2 min.
Cut ciabatta buns in half. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, arrange cut-side up. Brush each cut-side of bun with some garlic marinade from bowl with mozzarella slices. Arrange mozzarella slices on top. Toast in middle of oven until lightly golden-brown and mozzarella melts, 2-3 min. (TIP: Keep an eye on your ciabatta so that it does not burn!)
Divide pasta between plates and sprinkle over remaining Parmesan. Serve with garlic-mozzarella ciabatta.