Sometimes I think Paula Deen is turning over a new leaf. I’ll catch a few minutes of her show and will notice that she’s chosen to use one, not two, sticks of butter in her cake. Or she’s opted to eat an “au naturale” Twinkie instead of deep-frying it. When I glimpse these rare moments, I think, “Good for you, Paula. You’re obviously taking measures to lengthen your time here on earth with the me-en” (“men” in Paula-ese has two syllables).
So I have to say that I was pleased to find a seemingly new section of her magazine called, “On the Lighter Side.” Perhaps Paula has been accused by too many loyal fans for instigating their astronomical LDL counts, blocked arteries, or early onset adult diabetes. Or maybe she realized that having a “light” section may attract just a few more magazine subscribers. Either way, I took the bait and tried her recipe for Spinach and White Bean Penne.
The ingredient list definitely raised my eyebrows. Penne, bacon, onion, white beans, garlic, spinach, and orange zest? “How in Smithfield’s name does all of this go together?” I thought. But being somewhat adventurous and very lazy (this recipe takes almost no time to make), I chose to give this dish the old college try, and I’m glad I did. The ingredients, though seemingly disparate, actually came together quite nicely, and the dish was definitely light and flavorful. The only negative I see is that you serve this dinner essentially at room temperature (it must stem from the fact that you cook the pasta, drain it, and then move on with the rest of the steps). In the future, I would time the recipe so that everything comes out warm, since I always prefer a warm dinner to a luke-warm or cold one. But that just might be me.
Spinach and White Bean Penne
1 (12-oz) box whole-wheat pasta
4 slices bacon
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1 and 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. In a large skillet, cook bacon 6 minutes over medium heat or until crisp. Remove from pan, and crumble. Discard all but 2 tablespoons drippings in pan. Add onion and garlic to drippings in pan, and sauté over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until tender.
2. In a large bowl, combine pasta, crumbled bacon, onion mixture, beans, spinach, and orange zest. Serve immediately.