I was 19 the first time I tried it. It was during those experimental college years, where peer pressure makes you do things you wouldn't normally do. Things I wouldn't dream of doing now - like staying up past 11 for no reason, going to football games and taking a Country Western Social Dance class. (Actually that last one is a lie. I'd totally take it again if I could. It was completely fun and I'm not even that into country music.)
Another thing college introduced me to was all kinds of incredibly tasty and very bad-for-you foods, usually late at night.
One of those foods was spinach artichoke dip.
My roommates were the ones who convinced me I needed to try it. "It's delicious," they said. "And good for you because it has spinach and artichokes in it." (I'm fairly certain that none of us had ever had a nutrition class.) I did try it, and of course, I loved it. What's not to love? It's creamy and cheesy with the tangy flavor of artichokes and the earthy flavor of spinach. You dip bread in it. What could be better than that? I was hooked.
For years I fed my addiction until the sad day when I calculated the calories in spinach artichoke dip. And cried. My roommates were completely wrong. It wasn't all that good for me. I hid my recipe for it and tried to forget I had ever tasted spinach artichoke dip. Then I had an epiphany after seeing a post from my friend Britney. It was a spinach artichoke casserole. Sheer genius, really. Since whenever I eat spinach artichoke dip I eat a meal's worth of it anyway, why not beef it up and actually have it for dinner?
Anything with the word "casserole" in it doesn't fly with my husband (I think he can even sense when I'm thinking of calling something a casserole) so after brainstorming a bit I went a slightly different route and made pasta. I took a favorite spinach artichoke dip recipe, made it a little creamier and more "saucy" (Everything is better more saucy, isn't it?) and lightened it up slightly by substituting lower fat cream cheese and sour cream. The end result was bowl of pasta with a thick creamy sauce with plenty of tangy artichoke and earthy spinach flavor and less of the guilt. A spinach artichoke dish I could eat for dinner.
If only it were as easy to feed my craving for the cinnamon breadsticks with cream cheese dipping sauce I loved so much in college.
Spinach Artichoke Dip Pasta
05/11/2011Recipe Source: adapted from allrecipes.com Published
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook time: 10 min
- 1 (13oz) box shell pasta
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
- 1 8 oz package reduced fat (not fat free) cream cheese
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 14 oz can artichoke hearts (packed in water), drained and chopped
- 1 9 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry in a clean towel
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 cup chopped cooked chicken (optional)
- Additional Parmesan for serving
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and add garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cream cheese and stir until melted. Slowly stir in milk, then add sour cream, lemon juice, salt and red pepper flakes. Stir in artichoke hearts, spinach, Parmesan cheese and chicken (if using).
- Drain pasta and add to artichoke mix. Toss and season to taste with salt and additional lemon juice as needed. Serve with additional shredded Parmesan.
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook time: 10 min