Saturday, April 10, 2010

Creamy Parmesan "Pasta Side"

In college, Hirsh and I discovered these things called "pasta sides." They are made by a few different companies, and basically, they are similar to the rice mix concept, but they are pasta, not rice. They make quick and easy side dishes for chicken, fish or whatever, so we eat them probably once, maybe twice per week. I have recently been becoming more health conscious, particularly about sodium, and these packaged mixes are HUGE sodium culprits! So I decided that I wanted to try to make a "pasta side" of my own from scratch, without the "powder packet" and all of the sodium that comes with it.

To come up with the recipe, I looked at the seasonings (besides salt) on our "creamy parmesan" pasta side- parsley, garlic powder, dried onion and parmesan and decided to use those flavors. Then, I wanted to make the sauce creamy, so I decided to use a roux base for a mini cream sauce. What resulted was pretty tasty, a lot less salty, but also a lot more work. The roux requires pretty constant attention, but to have a healthier side dish, I think it is very worth it. I will use this as my base recipe and try out different spices and cheese additions to make different variations (Hirsh said he would have prefered a stronger cheese taste, so I will add cheddar next time). All and all, my first recipe that I designed from the ground up was a success!

Creamy Parmesan "Pasta Side"
1 C penne (I use Smart Taste for extra fiber and calcium)
1 1/2 tsp butter
1 1/2 tsp flour
1/2 C milk
2 tbsp grated parmesan
Garlic powder
Dried onion flakes
Salt (just a little!)

1. Boil water in a medium sauce pan.
2. Add penne and cook until al dente.
3. While the pasta is boiling, melt butter in a small stainless saucepan over medium heat and add flour, stirring constantly until you get a blonde roux (it will start to darken in color.)
4. Slowly add milk and stir constantly over medium heat until the sauce thickens (about 5 min).
5. Add 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese.
6. Add seasonings to taste.
7. Combine sauce with hot pasta. Serves 2 for a side dish.

Difficulty: Medium
Debbie's Rating: 9
Hirsh's Rating: 8.5


  1. A trick I use sometimes to add a little more "saltiness" is a pinch of cayenne pepper. It really ups the flavor profile and adds that same pop that salt does, without the extra sodium.

    I have never tried the Smart Taste pasta, is it good? Does it have a grainy mouthfeel at all?

  2. I will have to try the cayenne! Sounds like a good idea.

    Smart Taste pasta is really good. I don't notice any difference in taste or texture compared to regular white pasta. Definitely worth a try!