Pasta is a food that is a great pantry staple due to its versatility. It can be served cold in a salad, stirred into soups, topped with a sauce, or baked into a casserole. It comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes so you won’t get bored. When you consider that a pound of pasta can often be purchased for $1.00, it’s obvious that pasta is a great frugal food. As the weather has gotten colder, the members of my household look forward to hot and hearty dishes that stick to their ribs. This recipe was put together from things I had on hand. I wanted to make a pasta dish, and I knew that I needed to use up the shrimp in our freezer, but I wasn’t sure what else I wanted to include in the recipe.
I consulted Food Critic who declared that he wanted macaroni and cheese while Sue Chef wanted her pasta with Alfredo sauce. I wanted to make them eat some vegetables, and Baker’s Man just wanted “dinner on the table sometime tonight.” Gathering up everything, I proceeded to cook the pasta while I prepared the sauce. I was surprised how quickly all of the ingredients came together to create a rich and creamy dish.
Here’s the recipe. Give it a try and leave a comment below to let us know what you think.
Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.
- 1 pound uncooked shell pasta
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (or 4 teaspoons garlic from a jar)
- ½ cup cream cheese
- 1 cup of milk (or half and half), divided --you may add up to ½ cup more for a more moist dish
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- ½ pound of small shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 10 oz package of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (you can substitute a 12 ounce package of fresh raw baby spinach)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
- Cook pasta according to package directions in salted water.
- While the pasta is cooking, begin the sauce
- Melt butter in the bottom of a medium sized sauce pan (2 -3 quart size)
- Add garlic to pan and saute for 1-2 minutes. You want garlic to soften and release its flavor but not to burn.
- Add ½ cup cream cheese and stir over medium to low heat until melted.
- Add ½ cup milk or half and half and mix well.
- Stir in Parmesan cheese and 1 cup of Mozzarella cheese mixing well until cheese in melted and incorporated in the milk mixture, stirring frequently. Turn off heat under pan.
- The pasta should be finished at this point. Drain it and toss with olive oil, adding the shrimp, and spinach.
- Place the spinach, shrimp, and pasta mixture in a 2½ quart casserole dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray or coated with butter.
- Mix two eggs with remaining ½ cup of milk or half and half.
- Carefully add 4 tablespoons of the warm cheese mixture to the egg and milk mixture stirring quickly and vigorously after each addition to prevent eggs from being cooked by the addition of the hot cheese sauce. This process is referred to as tempering and will allow you to add the egg mixture to the sauce without making scrambled eggs.
- Add egg and milk mixture to the pot and bring back to a simmer, stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes until the egg is well incorporated into the sauce and the sauce has thickened slightly.
- Pour sauce over shrimp, spinach, and pasta mixture in the pan, stirring gently to ensure that the sauce is well distributed in the pan.
- Sprinkle the top of the casserole with the remaining ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
- Top with the remaining 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until casserole dish is heated through, with the cheese melted and shrimp fully cooked.