In the world of cooking, there are a lot of good blends that can be always counted on. For instance, pastas smothered with tangy, spicy, rich cream cheese sauce go well with blanched green vegetables such as string bean (haricot vert), broccoli, broccolini, green peas, asparagus, or even corn. They are all success. This relationship is similar to which a full-figured, mean woman from a wild family (creamy penne) marries a boring but hard-working man with no friends (green blanched vegetables)!
At this time, I feature this pasta dish with string beans, but don’t stop there; add even more blanched green vegetables to this mix, and enjoy it all together.
I like to use fresh string beans as much as possible especially when I can find them in organic from farmers market, but I buy them frozen too. No cans please. In my freezer, I like to keep frozen string bean, green peas, and corn at all times. In the refrigerator, there is usually some scallions, cream cheese, Dijon mustard, carrots, tomatoes, celery… etc… and of course in my pantry, I can’t live without some reserved pasta boxes, garlic and onions.
This dish seems luxurious, but as you can see from the break down, it is made of fridge and pantry staple items.
1 lb. penne rigate pasta
1 lb. string beans, washed, trimmed, blanched and chopped into 2 inch pieces
1 smal red onion, thinly sliced
3 jalapeños, thinly sliced
Kosher salt or rock sea salt
For the Sauce
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tbsp lemon and pepper seasoning salt (recommended: McCormick)
Zest of one lemon
Blanch the string beans for 2-3 minutes. To blanch any vegetable, you need to plunge them in a salted and hot boiling water for a short amount of time (1-4 minutes). Next, using a Chinese spider utensil or some thing similar strain them out and put them in ice-cold water for 5 minutes, take them out and they are ready for use.
In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, lemon and pepper seasoning, lemon zest and stir them together with a fork until well combined. Set aside
Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat, and put a generous amount of salt (kosher or rock sea salt). Add the pasta, and cook until “al dente”, string occasionally, about 10-12 minutes. You can also cook the pasta according to its box instruction. Drain and transfer the pasta to a large mixing bowl. Next, add in the cream cheese sauce and toss with pasta until all pieces are coated. Add the string beans, onion, jalapeño. Combine every thing together, and transfer the salad to a serving bowl. Serve at room temperature.
- Use regular cream cheese. Low fat cream cheese options mixed with mustard and lemon juice, make the sauce too sour and the overall result is not the same as with full fat cream cheese.
- Add up to 1/4 cup of mayonnaise for creamier and richer texture and flavor if desired.
- Consider mixing the pasta with more than one vegetable. My personal favorite is to add blanched string beans and broccoli together.
- I used jalapeño and red onions for heat and spiciness in this recipe, but if you don't like their taste, you can replace them with green bell pepper (for jalapeño) and scallions (for onion), and season the dish with freshly ground black pepper.