A few weeks ago I went to Gilt Bar, which is probably my current favorite regular restaurant in the city. They do really simple food, but they do it very well. I had a dish there called "The Purist," which was simply pasta, parmesan, and black pepper. For having so few ingredients that we eat all the time, it was mindblowing.
One night after eating this delightful pasta, I was craving it at home, so I decided to give it a whirl. I had no idea how they actually prepared it, so I went to improvise. I was about halfway through the sauce (and thinking about cheesecake for some reason) when I realized that the sauce was way too thin. I didnt want to put flour in it because I don't like thickening sauces with flour. Looking through my fridge, I pushed aside the milk and eggs, and sitting there, like the hidden grail, was the answer! Cream cheese! I sliced off about an ounce of it and put it in the sauce to add some body, and it turned out just like I hoped. I also started thawing some chicken, but it wasn't thawed in time, so I didn't use it. That was a fortuitous turn of events, since I ended up liking the dish way better than I would have if the chicken ended up in it. I'm pretty sure it was the best pasta I've ever cooked, and I'm glad Gilt Bar inspired me.
Anyway, here is the recipe.
1 box penne pasta
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 oz. cream cheese
3 cups loosely packed baby spinach
2 tbsp butter
4 cloves of garlic, diced
black truffle oil (optional)
1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes until just starting to brown.
2. Add in chicken stock and cream and cook until simmering.
3. Add cream cheese and whisk until it is melted and incorporated.
4. Let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes until reduced slightly.
5. Meanwhile, start a large pot of water boiling, salt it, and add the pasta to begin cooking for about 8 minutes or until pasta is al dente.
6. Put spinach in the bottom of the service bowl.
7. When the sauce has reduced a little, add in a pinch of parmesan and whisk until combined. Continue this process until only about 1/4 of a cup of cheese remains. Reserve the cheese on the side to finish the dish.
8. Add salt and pepper to the sauce to taste.
9. When pasta is done, drain it and put it over the spinach and toss to combine. Pour the sauce over the top and toss again. Cover with foil to hold the heat in and cook the spinach.
10. Remove the foil and lightly drizzle with black truffle oil, if using.